Everything comes down to timing. Making the right move at the right time. Making the right move at the wrong time can backfire just as badly as making the wrong move at the right time. The Lakers need to trust the process.
In the case of the Lakers, that means remaining patient and continuing to add pieces through the draft and free agency that complement and complete their roster rather than trading away valuable assets for superstars to create a team that still wouldn’t be good enough to compete with the Warriors or Rockets. Now is not the right time for the Lakers to trade young talent and picks for a superstar who wants to win now. That’s a move better saved for next year.
Right now, what the Lakers need do is continue to trust the process that’s transformed them into a likely top ten team in the league next season with a talented young roster and cap space situation that’s the envy of every team. They need to remain patient, resist premature shortcuts, and continue to follow the same model the Warriors and Celtics used to build elite rosters. Building championship teams is a process that requires time and patience.
The Lakers have created something special they would be wise to continue to grow and develop rather than risk short circuiting with a major trade. They have a team that has promising talent at all five positions, plays hard at both ends, and has already developed a strong culture and identity. While young, the Lakers play fast and hard and don’t back down from anybody. That’s not something you want to throw away or risk losing by making big changes.
The Lakers just need to trust the process and stay the course for another year so they can fill in the holes in their roster and find out what they really have in their budding young stars before they pull the trigger on any major deals.
The Lakers have three talented young players who could become superstars in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. Trusting the process means doing everything they can to accelerate the growth and development of these three future stars and giving them the opportunity to realize their potential. The giant strides that Lonzo, Brandon, and Kyle have made from the start of season to the end have raised the bar on their possible upsides even higher.
Trusting the process also means not doing anything to hinder or limit the growth and development of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, or Kyle Kuzma. That’s why it doesn’t make sense at this point for the Lakers to be pursuing players who play the same positions as they do. The Lakers don’t need a superstar point guard, small forward, or power forward. They should be looking for superstars to fill their holes at shooting guard and center.
Which is why Paul George should be the Lakers’ primary free agent target this summer. While his natural position has been small forward, PG has the tools offensively and defensively to be the perfect shooting guard for the Lakers. He’s an elite defender with the quickness and length to guard three positions and efficient catch-and-shoot scorer who can attack the rim when challenged.
He’d be a perfect complement at both ends playing alongside Lonzo Ball.
Paul George also is a good fit mentally and emotionally for this young Lakers team. George doesn’t need to dominate the ball to be effective, which means the Lakers can continue to play the same with Paul George as without him. He won’t take the ball out of Lonzo’s hands or force Brandon to play out of position or come off the bench. Instead, he’s provide the Lakers with a major upgrade at shooting guard and the first All-Star quality player on the roster.
After signing PG to a max contract, allocating space for Randle’s cap hold, and waiving and stretching Luol Deng, the Lakers would still potentially have $28 million in cap space, which they could save for Kawhi Leonard or another superstar next summer by only signing 1-year contracts like they last year. With few teams with cap space this summer, the Lakers could possibly sign Isaiah Thomas, Trevor Ariza, and Nerlens Noel to 1-year short term deals.
The Lakers also have their $4.2 million room exception, which they could use to bring back Brook Lopez. Since they also waived and stretched Luol Deng, they would also have #25 pick in this summer’s draft, which they could use to add talented and tough UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday, and the #46 pick, which they could use to draft Latvian 6–10 combo forward Rodions Kurucs, who has a similar toolset and mentality as Lakers stellar rookie Kyle Kuzma.
That would give the Lakers the following roster for the 2018–19 season:
PG: Lonzo Ball, Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Holiday
SG: Paul George, Josh Hart, Andre Ingram
SF: Brandon Ingram, Trevor Ariza, Rodions Kurucs
PF: Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Travis Wear
CE: Brook Lopez, Nerlens Noel, Thomas Bryant
If the Lakers do decide to kick their remaining cap space to summer of 2019, then an interesting gambit would be to try and steal away a pair of talented restricted free agents whose teams might be pressed to match an offer. For example, the Lakers could try to steal Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets by offering him a 4-year contract starting at $18 million per year and Marcus Smart from the Celtics by offering him a 4-year deal starting at $10 million.
Right now the Lakers need to trust the process and continue building their roster through free agency and the draft rather than prematurely trading away assets for a superstar, even if it’s a top five player like Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers’ front office’s goal this summer should be to transform the team into top four playoff team in the West by signing Paul George and giving their trio of budding stars the opportunity to take their games to the next level.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have done a great job their first year but they’re going to face their biggest challenge this summer in remaining patient and trusting the process they’ve established to build a championship team. They need to resist the lure and temptation of signing two superstars or trading away assets for a superstar and remain patient and continue to trust the process that got them this far. That’s the right move at the right time.