By William Stevenson
We’ve had fun clowning the Lakers and the Knicks over the past few seasons. I regret to think we won’t be able to make fun of the Lakers for much longer. When the Buss family was entrenched in off the court drama, things were looking dim as Luke Walton struggled to impose a defensive structure, injuries hampered the Lakers early on, and nobody could put a finger on who would run the operations for the organization. Fast forward a few months, and Magic Johnson an Rob Pelinka (former agent) are now making smart moves to improve the roster. Everything is a long shot to work out with there being many uncertainties with player development, team chemistry and unknown injuries, but as of right now there is hope.
The Lakers now have 3 first round picks and Brook Lopez after trading away DeAngelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets. With Mozgov gone, they only need to stretch Lou Deng’s contract to make more room. With Russell gone, they can draft Ball with no chemistry issues, but they give up their backup plan. They also do not have to worry about extending Russell or allowing his value to plummet while he adjusted to the 2-Guard position. Paul George wants to come to the Lakers, their first “big star” since Kobe and an injury plagued Dwight Howard. The rumors of Lebron James are back in full effect with Magic Johnson at the helm, and the seemingly utter train wreck that is the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers can trade their number two pick now, package their first rounders for George, or stand around and play the waiting game, which isn’t the best play for a team and fanbase that is starving right now. Waiting till next year to acquire George via free agency is a risky move, especially when the SuperMax is still in play, and you never know what can happen in a year.
Honestly, I wouldn’t wait. Although there is no reason to fork over multiple picks when the Lakers have the leverage over the Pacers, they cannot wait around and hope George fulfills his verbal committment. What if the Pacers decide to sign a marquee free agent (they have cap room to do so), George makes and All-NBA Team, and somehow Myles Turner blossoms the way Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic did last season? Then what? You can’t depend on chance for too long. I’m sure the Nuggets and Blazers had no thoughts of giving the max-max to Jokic and Nurkic last year, but now they must. What if the Lakers struggle once again, Randle and Ingram plateau, and Luke Walton isn’t what Magic and Pelinka want for the Lakers, then what?
Lopez only has one year left, and he can be traded before the All-Star break if need be. Jordan Clarkson is also on a team-friendly contract, and the Lakers are looking to move him as well. As we seen with the Phoenix Suns, acquiring players through free agency doesn’t always work as planned. They were expecting so sign LaMarcus Aldridge, so they signed Tyson Chandler, but then Aldridge spurned the Suns to sign with the Spurs. So be wary Lakers fans and management, the time is now. Don’t wait for other teams to catch up, because as we’ve seen this offseason, the teams at the top are gearing up to take down the Warriors, and you don’t want to get caught watching others take down the throne.