Jun. 25, 2017
R & R: The Lakers in the near future
I am sick of hearing "Oh yeah we should tank", because hearing about a team tanking is a complete disregard to the fans and what they pay to see. The Lakers have done such a thing fo three years now. But what has gone on in the past 10 days or so, tanking would be a smart option for the remainder of the season. Max Kellerman said to tank intelligentaly, effectively meaning, the Lakers should tank while managing to develop their young core as much as possible. Magic Johnson simply needs to acquire assets, and championship 'material'. The trade of Lou Williams for Corey Brewer and a first round pick from Houston was a brilliant trade for LA; it gives you a solid two way player who can effectively play three positions, as well as a first round pick that serves as a trade piece.Trade you say? Why do the Lakers need a trade piece? Paul George that is why.
First off, yes, Magic and Co. have a lot of work to do. There is a lot of mess left by Jim Buss and his ineptitude, and that will take time, but in the short term, things could be looking up in 'Tinsel Town'.
Whether you want to believe the reports that have often toyed with Laker fans' emotions over the last few years (LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony etc.), Paul George has genuine interest in returning home and playing for the Lakers, telling Indiana he would only sign long term with either them or the Lakers. The Pacers honoured this and rejected any trades from another team, including a mega player deal reportedly proposed by Denver. A huge question remains if the Lakers should pursue a trade for George or wait until free agency. George has two years remaining on his contract, with the final year being a player option. Thus meaning George may very well opt out and pursue free agency in 2018, and sign with who he wants.
The one issue for the near future of the Lakers in terms of their cap room, where the contracts to Deng and Mozgov take up roughly $33 million in cap next year (surprisingly which is less than this year). This will rise up however to $18 and &18.8 million for Deng, and $16 to $16.7 million for Mozgov over the next two years. Yes, it is very hard to hear such a hit to the cap, considering the lack of contributions from these two this season, and the huge contracts mean they probably cannot be trade pieces for the likes of George. Therefore, neither trade or free agency seem desirable options on paper for the Lakers. Cap room is limited, and the Lakers have a roster filled with 'what if' and 'could be' players.
If a trade was to happen, if the basketball gods existed, this would be (at best) what the Lakers would have to offer: Two first round picks for 2017, possibly a second round pick, the services of Ingram, Russell, Clarkson or Randle. It would make sense to only give up two young guys along with three picks, and Randle sits at the top of the list for me. I love Randle; he is strong in the low post and defensively can hustle very well. He is a ball hog though at times, and although he has been the best Laker this season, his skill is rather limited. He has arguably been the Lakers best player this season so far, but his ceiling does not seem as high as the other guys and what we see is what we will continue to get. Clarkson or Ingram would be the second guy(s) to trade. Clarkson is a great scorer already and serving as the Lakers sixth man for this season, a role in which he suits, and his value is moving up. Ingram has the most upside among the young players, and has an arsenal of weapons in his offensive game. His lack of strength and worrying rookie season form may mean he won’t be what people expected. Though we must factor in, Ingram is a young man at the age of 19, and has not had much play time with the Lakers so far. Since the trade of Lou Williams to the Rockets, Ingram has scored 11 and 22 points in the Lakers games against the Thunder and the Spurs, playing 39 and 35 mins respectively. Based on his brilliant handles, great shooting and at times good passing, Russell is the main one to keep. What I have noticed lately is his leadership, just specks of it showing through. He controls the floor quite well for a young guy, and I believe has serious potential at the position. Playing the likes of Ingram and Russell a lot more towards the end of this season means the team will fall in terms of 'fire power', and compared to the likes of Dallas and Minnesota, the Lakers should finish 14th in the West. If executed correctly, and mentioned before, this will bring in that coveted first round draft pick in 2017. Some work for Magic to do, along with Luke, but work that is not hard to complete and work that will seriously pay dividends for next season.
Smooth sailing? Not so much, but the Lakers can relax for now. A few things need to happen. They need the third draft pick, whether you find room for the likes of Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum, once again it can act as a trade piece to pursue superstars. If role players like Deng, Mozgov, Young, Black etc. can play some solid ball, the team is looking at a great improvement next season