Best for Lakers’ fans to not get too attached to any of the team’s young core because chances are most of them won’t be around next time we celebrate winning an NBA championship with a big parade in downtown Los Angeles.
After five torturous years of trusting the process and tanking, the Lakers finally appear ready to take the next logical rebuilding step and cash in the trading chips they’ve collected to acquire multiple superstars in their prime to immediately compete for an NBA championship. The young talent on rookie deals, the cap space to sign two max free agents, the full slate of draft picks will all be on the table as Magic Johnson seeks to build a Lakers superteam.
We’ll still hear the usual platitudes about developing our young stars and building the team organically but make no mistake, the Lakers’ plethora of young talent and full suite of draft picks are nothing more than trading chips to acquire superstars. That’s the only process Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are really interested in, the only process they really trust. Step one is to tank to collect assets and step two is to cash those assets in to acquire superstars.
Magic realizes there is no way the Lakers or any other NBA team is going to compete with the Big Four of the Warriors unless they can match them with a Big Four of their own. He also knows the superstars themselves realize this. That’s why all the Banana Boat talk between LeBron, CP3, Melo, and Wade. That’s why Daryl Morey isn’t content with just James Harden and Chris Paul. The Warriors signing of Durant raised the championship bar to a Big Four.
Make no mistake, Magic’s Johnson’s pitch to LeBron James and Paul George this summer isn’t going to be come help the Lakers grow into a championship contender. It’s going to be come anchor what’s going to be Lakers’ Big Four because once the Lakers sign LeBron and PG, they would then be perfectly positioned with requisite trading chips to be at the table whenever the next superstar became available, which could be the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis.
With LeBron James and Paul George signed as free agents, the Lakers could offer the Pelicans a package that included Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and two first round draft picks for Anthony Davis. That’s an offer that might be too good for the Pelicans to refuse and a quick way to reload with young talent to surround DeMarcus Cousins. Or maybe the offer is instead for DeMarcus Cousins but allows the Lakers to keep one of Ingram or Kuzma.
Bottom line, Magic is going to pitch LeBron James and Paul George with a vision of a Los Angeles Lakers’ Big Four of Lonzo Ball, Paul George, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis that could challenge and dethrone the Warriors. That’s a vision LeBron James and Paul George could both easily embrace as the Lakers’ superteam it would create could actually be better than the Dubs. How about a starting lineup of Lonzo, PG, LeBron, AD, and Nerlens Noel?
While the actual pieces could easily vary depending on which superstars become available via free agency and trade, I believe the ‘process’ for building the Lakers’ Big Four is already set. Lonzo Ball will be the one home grown superstar, LeBron James and Paul George will hopefully be the two free agent superstars, and Anthony Davis will hopefully be the superstar we traded for. The ‘process’ could take a couple years but it could also happen this summer.
The fact that the Lakers could find themselves in this position just one year after Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took over the front office is astounding. Thank the basketball gods, a killer summer 2017 draft, and smart trades and cap management but Magic and Rob have the Lakers perfectly positioned to take the next logical step in building a superteam that can not only compete with the Golden State Warriors but could challenge and dethrone them.
While it’s tough for fans to see young players they love and watched grow up get traded away, it’s also naïve to think Magic Johnson is going to settle for anything less than competing for a championship as quickly as possible, which means embracing the ‘process’ and understanding that you can’t win NBA championships without the superstars to match up against the Warriors. So ‘trust the process’ and enjoy these talented young kids while they’re here.
They’re soon going to be sacrificed to the gods of Lakers Exceptionalism.