Lakers may target summer 2019!
Why the Lakers best option may be to grow and develop team organically and save cap space for summer 2019
The tragic injury to DeMarcus Cousins put a bright spotlight on the risks the Lakers face in trying to create cap space ahead of time to sign two max-contract free agents this summer. Cousins’ injury has left the list of superstar free agents from which the Lakers were hoping to sign two reduced now to just LeBron James and Paul George, leaving the Lakers’ grand plan for this summer as a long shot.
When I take a closer look at this summer’s pending free agent situation, I think there’s a good chance we may see LeBron, DeMarcus, and Paul all re-sign short term deals with their current teams due to each of the player’s unique contract situations combined with the lack of teams with cap space to sign max-contract players. There are only be 5 teams projected to have max cap space this summer.
A short term deal could definitely make sense for the Pelicans and Cousins due to DeMarcus’ Achilles injury. Similarly, LeBron and the Cavs might decide that staying together for another season could be their best option and Paul George and the Thunder might decide it was in both their interests to give their experiment another season and kick the can down the road. Bottom line, these three superstars deciding to wait to be free agents until summer 2019 could be a huge positive for the Lakers.
It would also setup summer of 2019 to be one of the wildest free agent markets in the history of the league, with LeBron, PG, Cousins, and Klay Thompson as potential free agents. More importantly, the extra year gives the Lakers’ young core another season to grow and develop and make the Lakers an attractive landing spot for a superstar. Imagine how much better Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma could be having another full year to develop and take their games to another level.
Kicking the can down the road would mean looking for more 1-year deals like with KCP this summer, which ironically will likely be the same strategy that many players will be forced into due to the scarcity of cap space. It would also mean more time for players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson to prove their worth, since it would be stupid for the Lakers to trade them right now, unless they get an upgrade in return. This was reflected in Pelinka’s recent comments about the Lakers’ plans.
Regardless of what the Lakers’ grand plan is, the team needs to make some moves in the short term to fill holes and upgrade the roster. Specifically, we need to find a potential starting or backup center who can protect the rim, a backup small forward who can shoot from deep, and a backup point guard who can do a better job than Ennis and Caruso. Ideally, Lonzo, Brandon, and Kyle will take their games to the next level next season and we can upgrade shooting guard and center.
Bottom line, the best laid plan is always to be flexible and have optimum options. The Lakers have done an excellent job positioning themselves to land two superstars in free agency. Right now, however, it looks like their best option may be to continue to grow the team organically with smart upgrades and kick the can down the road one more time and save their cap space for the summer of 2019. The extra year for the current roster to grow could be the perfect solution to catapult the Lakers rebuilding plans to a successful return to championship contention.