Which superstars best fit the Lakers?
How handing the keys of the franchise to Lonzo Ball could change whom the Lakers pursue in free agency next summer
If you believe the rumors, every top tier free agent in the class of 2018 now wants to wear purple and gold. LeBron to the Lakers next summer is a done deal. Same with Paul George. After years of being the girl nobody wanted to dance with, suddenly the Lakers are the belle of the ball, as in Lonzo Ball.
Assuming the Lakers have a breakout season and Magic Johnson’s grand plan is on schedule, the Lakers could be in the enviable position next summer of having more top free agents interested than they have cap space. The question is which superstars should the Lakers pursue next summer. LeBron James and Paul George are the early favorites but that could change if Westbrook declines his extension or the Pelicans decide to trade Cousins.
What nobody in the mainstream media seems to be talking about though is how handing the keys to the franchise to Lonzo Ball could change whom the Lakers pursue in free agency this summer. The Lakers didn’t draft Lonzo Ball to walk the ball up the court or run an iso-heavy half court set. Superstar or role player, the Lakers aren’t going to sign free agents whose games don’t complement Lonzo or fit with Luke’s share-the-ball offense.
That doesn’t mean the Lakers shouldn’t pursue LeBron James or Russell Westbrook if available just because they’re ball-dominant superstars. It just means they’d have to have an honest conversation with both players about how they would fit playing with Lonzo and each other in Luke’s system. The Lakers aren’t the Rockets who traded for CP3 thinking they’d figure out how to make it work later. They’re looking for superstars they know fit.
The Lakers also aren’t the Cavs who, at LeBron’s request, traded a young potential superstar in Andrew Wiggins for a veteran All-Star in Kevin Love. The Lakers would need to make sure what they were getting was LeBron James, the player, and not LeBron James, the coach and general manager. LeBron would need to understand the Lakers aren’t going to fill their roster with his favorite role players or Krunch Sports clients like the Cavs did.
The idea of signing LeBron specifically raises many issues because of his age and the baggage and controversy that has followed his career and brand, which is ironic since he is unquestionably the best player in the NBA today. Were the Lakers and LeBron able to amicably resolve all of the above issues, they would then have to address the issue of contract length. LeBron would likely be looking for a 4-year supermax deal, which could be a deal breaker.
The player whose potential playing alongside Lonzo Ball most fascinates me is Russell Westbrook, whose blazing speed and athleticism in transition is the catalyst Lonzo needs to transform the Lakers offense into a fast breaking juggernaut reminiscent of Showtime. A Lakers backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Russell Westbrook would be one of the greatest backcourts in NBA history. It would be like watching a video game. Two LA kids leading the Lakers.
I feel sorry for the Thunder, whose plan to trade for Paul George in hopes of convincing Russell Westbrook to stay in OKC was doomed and destined to backfire with George instead recruiting Westbrook to join him on Lakers. While LeBron would give the Lakers the best player, Westbrook and George are the two players who would give the Lakers the best team. The Thunder have nobody to blame but themselves. They’re going to lose both players.
Next summer is a million miles away and who knows which superstars will be free agents. The one thing that seems certain is we’re going to continue to see teams trying to assemble superteams hoping to compete with the Warriors. But by next summer, we’re also going to see free agents wanting to come to the Lakers specifically to play with Lonzo Ball. It’s time for LA kids Russell Westbrook and Paul George to return home to play for Lakers.