Lakers’ secret plan to steal Klay?
The Lakers’ plans to overtake the Warriors should target signing Klay Thompson as a free agent the summer of 2019
There’s no move the Lakers could make over the next two years that would give them a better chance to compete with the Warriors for a championship than stealing Klay Thompson from them in free agency summer 2019.
No matter what they do, there’s no way for the Lakers to match the Warriors’ Big Four over the next two years. Even if they add two superstars, they’re still outgunned four superstars to two. But if they can steal one of the Warriors’ Big Four, the Lakers could suddenly close the talent gap between the teams. Other than waiting for Lonzo or Brandon to become superstars, stealing Klay is the only way the Lakers can catch the Warriors in the near future.
That’s why it’s important the Lakers only sign one superstar next summer and save cap space for the second superstar until the summer of 2019, when Klay Thompson should be ready to leave the Warriors after four rings and a third year playing third fiddle to Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. No one’s going to blame Klay for pursuing his options in free agency. Not after years of service and the sacrifices he made to help the Warriors to four championships.
The Warriors have always been aware that Thompson’s potential free agency in the summer of 2019 could mark the end of their Big Four. They’ve heard the rumors Klay may be looking for a team where he could have a bigger role. There have even have been whispers the Warriors might try and trade Klay before summer 2019 to avoid losing him for nothing or the financial hit they would take from the repeater tax if they re-signed Klay to a max contract.
As for Klay himself, his recent comments to Anthony Slater of the Athletic seemed to indicate that, while he was not ready to leave the Warriors ‘yet,’ he could be ready to move on once his current contract was up:
“We got such a good thing going, I just don’t want to leave yet. It’s rare in the NBA to have a team that can win with the culture we created. It’s hard to put a price on it. When that conversation does come up though… man, it’s so far away. What are we talking about? So far.” -Klay Thompson.
By the time his Warriors’ contract ends, Klay will have done everything he could possibly hope to accomplish at Golden State, including winning four NBA championships. At just 29, he will be ready for new challenges.
Even if he didn’t play for the Warriors, Klay Thompson should be at the top of the Lakers’ free agent big board, ahead of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins. Klay is the best shooter, defender, and fit for style of basketball the Lakers want to play. An elite scorer who plays off the ball and lockdown defender who guards four positions, Klay would be the perfect backcourt mate for Lonzo, which is a vital key role for the Lakers.
In addition to solving the problem of who’s going to play the 2 (hint, the answer never was Brandon Ingram, Paul George, or LeBron James), Klay is the only superstar on the Lakers free agent big board who doesn’t need the ball in his hands all the time to be successful. In fact, Klay had the lowest usage rate of any elite scorer in the NBA last season. He gives the Lakers a proven big time clutch scorer who doesn’t cause ball movement to stop.
Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Luke Walton have talked at length about how culture and chemistry are essential components for the Lakers’ success. Adding Klay Thompson, who played for Luke, understands his systems, and comes from a similar environment would give the Lakers a faster and easier transition than adding a ball dominant superstar like LeBron James or Russell Westbrook, who both would clearly require major adjustments.
The Lakers meanwhile face a huge challenge on their own to make sure they create the type of free agency destination that will appeal to Klay Thompson two summers from now and offer him opportunities to take his game and brand to a level he could not achieve were he to remain with the Warriors. For me, that starts with Lonzo winning ROY, Brandon winning MIP, and the Lakers surprising everybody and actually competing to make the playoffs.
If the Lakers can survive the hype, Lonzo and Brandon show they’re for real, and the Lakers even sniff the playoffs, then signing Paul George as a free agent would be the next logical step. More and more, it looks like the Cavs will trade the Nets pick to improve the team enough to lure LeBron to stay and the Thunder will finally get Russell to sign his supermax extension, leaving the Lakers perfectly positioned to wait for Klay Thompson.
Pursuing Klay could be complicated by the fact that his father, Mychal Thompson, a former two-time NBA champion for the Lakers, is one of the team’s announcers and employees. After the Paul George fiasco, the Lakers are going to have to be extremely careful not to run awry of the league’s tampering rules, especially when their secret plan to steal Klay becomes pubic and everybody finds out they’re saving cap space for summer 2019.
Most likely, Klay will be in the middle of the Warriors chasing a threepeat, which will allow him to deflect most of the questions about a possible extension or free agency. Who knows, the Warriors might surprise everybody and suddenly trade Klay midseason to the Pelicans for DeMarcus Cousins. Lacob would like nothing better than to pulling a quick 90 degree turn and ‘zig’ after the rest of the league was busy ‘zagging’ after the Warriors.
Stealing Klay Thompson from the Warriors in free agency summer 2019 is the only chance the Lakers have to even the talent gap and compete with the Warriors for a championship in the near future. It’s the Lakers’ secret plan.