After securing a top three pick in the NBA Lottery, the situation in Los Angeles is starting to look up for Lakers fans. Landing the No.2 overall pick is great, but the team also kept it’s 2019 first-rounder as well. Now, with all the drama out of the way, attention turns to the NBA draft and free agency. Holding two picks in the first round, the draft will be a priority for the Lakers, with free agency taking a back seat. The teams current cap space situation will be difficult to manage this off-season. So with so much going on, Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have a tough job taking this young team to the next level.
Los Angeles Lakers Free Agency
The Cap Space Situation
This “difficult” cap space situation was brought on by the Lakers own inadequacies. This past off-season, the team would sign both Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. Those two contracts amounted to $136 million combined. Both players would sign four-year deals, so the Lakers have a long-term problem. So, with this much money being poured into two players who ended the season sitting on the bench, there is no sign of this issue going away.
The issue at hand isn’t an easy fix, but it’s not impossible either. In Laker town, there is a sense of hope. The team is young and full of potential, there are draft picks on the way, so it’s likely the team get’s even younger. Some have become frustrated by the youth movement, with fans demanding the Lakers trade for a star. Fans in Tinseltown need to channel Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid for just 30 seconds. If you “trust the process” the team will be better off in the end.
Remember, just like in Baseball, you need to be bad before you can be good. The Houston Astros are a perfect example, a few years ago this team was terrible. But now, they hold the best record in Baseball. If you want to see results, you must to be patient and stick to the plan.
Why the Draft is so Important
This years NBA draft is absolutely loaded with talent. If you look at the players projected to go in the top-10, this draft has the potential to be an all-timer. After landing the No.1 overall pick, the Boston Celtics are expected to draft Washington guard Markelle Fultz. This leaves the Lakers at the Number two spot with the entire class to choose from. UCLA guard Lonzo Ball is rumored to be the unanimous choice for the Lakers. However, the Lakers shouldn’t pigeon hole themselves. There is so much talent this year, so the front office would be making a huge mistake by doing so.
De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson, Malik Monk and Jayson Tatum are all great prospects. You can’t definitively say Ball is by far the best player out of this talented group. The team has to be smart, don’t make you mind up before you evaluate all of your options. This really is the first test of the “Magic & Pelinka” era in Los Angeles. When you have the chance to draft a player, who should be a future All-Star, you must get it right.
The Team Has Some Re-signing to Do
Heading into the off-season, the Lakers have some expiring contracts. The likes of Nick Young, Tyler Ennis, Thomas Robinson and Metta World Peace are all set to become free agents. Now, World Peace has said he doesn’t plan to retire, but it’s very unlikely the Lakers bring him back as a player. Young is expected to opt out and test the free agency market. That brings us to Ennis and Robinson. These two players were valuable to the team last campaign. Ennis was acquired in the Lou Williams trade and contributed well in the second half of the season. Robinson is a high effort player and often made an impact off the bench. The Lakers need all the bench help they can get heading into next season, so Robinson would be an ideal player to bring back.
One Young Piece Will Likely be Moved
As mentioned earlier, the Laker have a cap space problem. This is arguably the best way for the Lakers to wiggle out of a difficult situation. There are a few teams, primarily the Brooklyn Nets, who have said they are willing to take either the Mozgov or Deng contracts. Now, that may sound ideal, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. The Nets or another team would want a “young piece” added to the deal, after all why else would they do it. This is one way around the problem, but the Lakers don’t want to give up a talented young piece.
If this was to happen, the Lakers would likely have to give up either Jordan Clarkson or Tarik Black. So, the Lakers have to either swallow to contracts they gave out, or trade away a talented young piece. It’s a difficult decision, that unfortunately may be forced upon the team.
The Lakers have a bright future. However, the team must get things right in the draft, if they are to benefit in the years to come. Don’t expect much from this years free agency period, as 2018 is the year were the Lakers will look to make a statement.
LOS ANGELES, USA – JANUARY 1: D’Angelo Russell (L) and Julius Randle of Lakers are seen during NBA match between Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, Los Angeles, California on January 1, 2016. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)