91-237. That number represents the Los Angeles Lakers’ record from 2013-2017. The 16x NBA Champions have lost roughly 72% of their games in the last four years, making them one of the worst teams in recent NBA history.
In that same four-year time frame, the Lakers have attempted to rebuild in a bevy of ways. From bringing in players such as Jeremy Lin, Lou Williams, D’Angelo Russell, Kent Bazemore, Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, the Lakers have yet to turn their fortunes around. Today officially marks the day where the Lakers are beginning their push for new days in the spotlight.
Los Angeles Lakers Potential Moves Following the Trade Deadline
The Trade of All Trades
Around 9:00 am Thursday, Adrian Wojnarowski announced that the Lakers sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 2018 protected first-round pick. By trading Clarkson and Nance, the Lakers cleared $46.9 million, meaning they have the ability to sign two max contracts in this upcoming off-season. Assuming the Lakers do not bring back Thomas and Frye, who are both on expiring contracts, they could clear an extra $14 million from their payroll.
Although Clarkson and Nance were fan favorites in L.A., the Lakers made the necessary trade to set themselves up for success in the near future. With a bright future on the horizon, the Lakers now control their own destiny going forward.
Sign Paul George
A bit of an obvious choice, but the Lakers must go after George during the off-season.
Paul George recently said in a post-game interview, “I’m happy [in OKC]. I’m happy with this group. At the end of the season, it’s still on my decision on what I need to do for my family. That has nothing to do with my happiness here though. I’ve been really happy. It’s a great organization to be a part of, but again, you know, I don’t want people looking at this and (saying) like, ‘Hey because he said it’s his happiness at the end of the day (that he’s definitely re-signing).”
Now that the Lakers have cleared enough room to sign two max contracts, George tops the Lakers’ wishlist.
George officially established himself as a dominant presence in the NBA in his early days with the Indiana Pacers. In seven years with the Pacers, George averaged 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists. George appeared in four all-star games and made the NBA all-defensive first team once and the second team twice. This season with the Thunder, George is averaging 22.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals. George is also shooting 42.7 percent from three.
The Lakers are in crucial need for a star player that can carry them down the stretch in games. The Lakers’ young core has displayed signs of improvement as the season has progressed, but they lack the late-game situational experience. George will provide the Lakers with an all-around game and the star power they have been missing since the days of Kobe Bryant.
Sign LeBron James
James might arguably be the greatest basketball player of all time, and that is a fact. Since his high school days, he has been linked to the city of Cleveland–the city that has celebrated and dismissed the superstar during different stages of his career. When James returned to Cleveland following his run in Miami, the Cavaliers have had more success than any other franchise not named the Golden State Warriors. Cleveland’s battles with the Warriors have been amongst the most exciting series in recent years, leading to many people believing that James is the greatest player of this generation.
He has carried Cleveland through the first 53 games of the season, averaging 26.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists. Considering that James has little assistance outside of Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, the fact the Cavs are 31-22 is amazing.
Outside of basketball, James has also stated he would love to live in Los Angeles. In fact, he bought a $23 million dollar home in Brentwood at the end of 2017. If he decided to bring his talents to Los Angeles for the remainder of his career, he could permanently call Los Angeles his home after his career is over.
James still has the health and talent to succeed in the NBA for at least five more years. If the Lakers decided to sign him, the Lakers could sign James to a 3-4 year max contract. Accompanied by Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Julius Randle, James can continue his championship traditions by taking the Lakers to the next level.
Re-sign Julius Randle
Before the season began, Randle was a top target to get traded by the Lakers before the trade deadline. In the early stages of the season, Randle was struggling to find any consistency off the bench. As the season progressed, he began enforcing himself as a leader on and off the court, leading to increased playing time and inclusion into the starting lineup. Now, Randle has a solidified himself as the enforcer of a young Lakers team.
With his play on the court, Randle has earned himself a longer tenure in Los Angeles. Currently averaging 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists, he has become one of the most entertaining players on the team. As Randle’s showed improvement, more teams around the league began to take interest in the left-handed specialist. Simultaneously, the Lakers began to see the improvement they had wanted to see from Randle all along. Now he will be with the Lakers for the remainder of the season and possibly the future.
Randle is in the final year of his four year, $13,545,962 contract. His contract also has a qualifying offer next year, making him a restricted free agent going into the offseason. As mentioned before, the Lakers have around $49 million to sign free agents going into the 2018-2019 season. The Lakers will definitely sign at least one player to the max, but if they choose that only one player is necessary for the grand scheme of the team’s future, Randle will receive a hefty, long-term contract. Even if the Lakers do decide that signing two max players will give the Lakers the flexibility and potential to win championships, they can always create cap space by letting Thomas and Frye walk away after this season. That new cap space could be enough to sign Randle to a short-term contract ranging from one to two year(s). If the Lakers do not bring back Brook Lopez, Randle can handle the center duties going forward.
The Future is Now
The days of the Lakers being the punching bag of the Western Conference are almost over. At 22-31 and 11th place in the conference, the Lakers are only six games out of the playoff race. The Lakers have shown strides of improvements since the year began, proving they can compete with the league’s best. Cap space is taken care of, meaning the Lakers can focus on becoming a legitimate threat in the near future.
Amongst growing ambiguity in the NBA’s future, one thing is for sure: The days of lackluster basketball are over. Get ready for a new and improved brand of Lakers basketball.