The first day of free agency came on like a tsunami, with nearly many of the best available players, including many who were said to interest the Lakers, snatched up into cap space. Those who were not signed outright by teams, were part of sign and trade transactions. The final tally of players now off the market either to new teams or returning to their incumbent one includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, D’Angelo Russell, Tobias Harris, Kemba Walker, Al Horford, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, JJ Redick, Malcom Brogdon, Bojan Bogdonavich, Taj Gibson, Julius Randle, and countless others.
One name still out there though is Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers top free agent target declined to take meetings on Sunday and will reportedly ramp up his process in the next couple of days. That ramping up, presumably, will include official conversations with his suitors, including the Lakers. So, the Lakers are waiting. And as they are, the market has mostly moved on without them.
Personally, I understand this approach. Of the money handed out on Sunday, few contracts were “value” deals. Many were overpays or the types of max deals the Lakers were not going to give to the players they were handed out to. This isn’t a knock against these players, of course, but more that the Lakers clearly have their eyes set on Leonard first and then will change gears to a different plan if that doesn’t work out.
Changing gears however, is where things get trickier. Don’t get me wrong — there are several players the Lakers could still chase with their $32 million in cap space. As of this writing, Patrick Beverly, Danny Green, Seth Curry, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, both Morris twins, and big men like Joakim Noah and JaVale are all still out there. The Lakers could pivot quickly in players like these direction, but they too could be gone soon.
This is the game the Lakers are playing now. They either get Kawhi and rejoice or don’t and look at the leftovers from a frantic first day of free agent signings.
Of course, perspective is needed. The Lakers have LeBron and Anthony Davis. The moves that were made on Sunday were to try to get players like these on teams who did not have them. Well, the Lakers already do. Building a roster around them as the foundations is any GM’s dream scenario. Of course, those same GM’s would also like a larger pool of players to do that from than Rob Pelinka will have if that’s how this goes.
I guess we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it. And hopefully, we don’t.