Lakers Still Targeting Third Superstar!
Despite the rejection by Kawhi Leonard, the Los Angeles Lakers still want a third superstar to go with LeBron James and Anthony Davis
The Los Angeles Lakers don’t win sixteen NBA championships and land a pantheon of superstars like Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Kobe Bryant by thinking small.
Anybody who thinks the Lakers are going to be satisfied with just two superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis or deterred by the rejection last summer by Kawhi Leonard doesn’t understand Lakers’ exceptionalism. Talk all you want about how the salary cap and Internet age have brought parity to the NBA but the Lakers became the most valuable and storied franchise in the league by thinking big and that is never going to change.
After six years of draft day disappointments and free agency failures, the Lakers are finally back with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a talented team that’s one of the favorites to win the championship. But unlike the Toronto Raptors and most of the other teams in the NBA, the Lakers aren’t interested in winning single championships. Their objective is to win multiple championships, to dominate for years, to create dynasties.
Lakers’ exceptionalism may have been in hibernation but it’s not dead as the Lakers turned down easier and safer opportunities to improve the team last summer by gambling and pursuing a third superstar in Kawhi Leonard. While the Lakers love the team they have now, they’re not going to stand pat. In fact, Rob Pelinka is already targeting four potential candidates to be the team’s third superstar alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Heading the Lakers’ list of potential candidates to be their third superstar is center DeMarcus Cousins, whom the Lakers have kept on their active roster despite there being almost no chance of him being able to play this season. The Lakers are keeping Boogie on their roster this season to earn his loyalty so they can re-sign him for two years next summer and earn his Bird rights. That would let the Lakers keep him long-term as their third superstar.
The Lakers’ next superstar candidate is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021, when the Lakers plan to have the cap space to sign him to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Bucks hope to sign Giannis to a supermax extension next summer but that may depend on their winning a championship this year. Meanwhile, the Lakers hope to lure Giannis to come to LA play with his brother Kostas.
Should Giannis re-sign with the Bucks, the Lakers would then likely target Bradley Beal, who will also be an unrestricted free agent summer of 2021, as the team’s third superstar to play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A perennial All-Star shooting guard who’s also an elite distributor, Beal has elevated every aspect of his game since John Wall went down with injury and would be a great fit on the Lakers and complement to LeBron and AD.
The Lakers last candidate to be the third superstar alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis is Pelicans’ talented two-way point guard Jrue Holiday, who is also slated to be an unrestricted free agent the summer of 2021. What makes Holiday intriguing is there might be an opportunity for the Lakers to trade for him this winter as the Pelicans’ poor start and Zion’s knee injury have killed their playoff hopes and made Jrue expendable.
The Lakers could offer a package built around 24-year old Kyle Kuzma, whom the Pelicans coveted but could not land in Anthony Davis trade, plus 19-year old Talen Horton-Tucker, who’s been tearing up the G-League. They would have to include Danny Green and Avery Bradley for salary ballast and could remove all protection from the 2021 first round pick they gave the Pels for AD and include a 2026 unprotected first round pick.
While there haven’t been any rumors of the Lakers and Pelicans talking, Rob Pelinka and David Griffin have a relationship from the AD trade and Kyle Kuzma and pieces plus a pair of unprotected firsts could be attractive. While the trade would leave the Lakers short a couple of key rotation pieces, it’s a move the Lakers would not hesitate to make because it would give them that elusive third superstar to complement Lebron and AD.
There’s an argument to be made the Lakers might be better off upgrading the role players on their roster rather than adding a third superstar who might take away touches and opportunities from the other two superstars. But that’s not how Lakers’ exceptionalism works. The Lakers don’t want to only be contenders. They want to be the odds on favorites to win it all and the only way to do that is to have more superstars than other teams.