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The Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs the last four seasons, but things are trending upward for the proud franchise.
Los Angeles hired legend Magic Johnson as its president of basketball operations and landed the No. 2 overall pick in Tuesday’s draft lottery. The Lakers would have lost their pick completely if it fell out of the top three.
A trade could facilitate an even quicker rebuild. With that in mind, here is the latest trade buzz circulating Los Angeles as it enters a full offseason with Johnson helping lead the charge.
Lakers Looking at Trade Options for No. 2 Pick
Los Angeles is just a few days removed from receiving the No. 2 pick, but Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times noted it “will evaluate trade options” for the selection.
An argument can be made the Lakers already have plenty of young talent with D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson on the roster, and trading the pick for a player ready to step in and lead right away could make some sense.
However, Ganguli pointed out general manager Rob Pelinka already said the team isn’t likely to trade the pick.
What’s more, the 2017 draft is filled with potential franchise cornerstones. Bill Simmons of The Ringer called it “the most loaded college draft class in years,” and it features the likes of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and plenty of other college stars.
The Lakers would forfeit their favorable position to grab one of them by trading the No. 2 pick
D’Angelo Russell a Potential Trade Target
Landing the No. 2 pick also opens up other possibilities, especially since Ball—a potential target—would step into a backcourt that already has Russell and Clarkson.
Along those lines, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated reported “multiple NBA teams are evaluating trade packages for D’Angelo Russell” since drafting Ball “could render Russell’s skillset somewhat redundant.”
Russell is only 21 years old, was the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 and averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists a night in 2016-17. It makes sense other teams covet someone like that, especially since he still has two years remaining on his rookie deal.
Those traits that make Russell valuable to others also suggest Los Angeles would be better off keeping him, especially since he is versatile enough to play shooting guard as well alongside Ball (if the Lakers draft the UCLA star).
Russell drilled 35.2 percent of his threes last season and would theoretically see even more openings with Ball slicing through defenses and kicking it out to him.
Clarkson could also play a similar role if Los Angeles moved Russell, but just because there is some redundancy in the games of Russell and Ball doesn’t mean they both wouldn’t be valuable during the Lakers’ rebuild.
Lakers Better Off Waiting on a Paul George Trade?
Paul George is a California-native and would play the role of hometown hero if he spearheaded the next great Lakers team.
However, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports) provided an argument for why Los Angeles shouldn’t look to trade for the Indiana Pacers star this offseason.
“For the Lakers, they are pretty confident and have a great deal of belief that they’re in position to get Paul George in 2018,” Wojnarowski said. “Whether he stays in Indiana or he’s traded elsewhere, he’s going to be a free agent in 18 if he doesn’t re-sign this summer in Indiana.
“They don’t have to give assets up to go and try to trade for him. In fact, I think they’ve been encouraged to do just the opposite. If Paul George is going to go there, he wants them to have assets. He wants them to be as good of a team as they can when he walks in.”
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com noted George would have qualified for the Designated Player Extension had he been part of the three All-NBA teams, but he wasn’t.
George qualifying for that extension would have allowed the Pacers to offer their star “the richest contract in NBA history—and add up to five years and approximately $210 million to his contract,” Windhorst wrote.
That massive financial incentive to stay with the Pacers is not there since George didn’t qualify for the teams, making his ability to use his player option and hit the market in 2018 all the more attractive.
As Wojnarowski indicated, the Lakers would have to use some of their assets to trade for George this offseason. However, if they wait until next offseason—when they are probably more ready to compete after averaging 22.75 wins the last four years—they can sign him to play alongside their young assets.
Some combination of George, Russell, Randle, Ball, Nance Jr. and Clarkson would be a legitimate threat to challenge for the playoffs in the Western Conference.