Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press
Before a wild purported trade, the Lakers were the talk of the Association for various reasons, chief among them a deep connection to Lonzo Ball.
Now? The narratives center on the Philadelphia 76ers moving to No. 1 in the draft after a trade with the Boston Celtics that is expected to be official Monday, according to TNT’s David Aldridge. The other major spotlight goes to Paul George, who told the Indiana Pacers he’ll hit the open market in 2018 and likes, of course, the Lakers, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Fine, so the Lakers are involved a little bit in the above. But the how and why aren’t so obvious, so let’s take a look at the rumblings around the Lakers, who seem a little bit under the radar right now, all things considered.
Lakers Willing to Move Down?
Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press
The idea the Lakers might make a trade down in the draft during these exciting times isn’t what most fans probably want to hear.
Apologies. The good news? Lakers fans have waited this long for the front office to work through the throes of a long-term rebuild, so waiting a little longer can’t hurt too much.
According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, the Lakers have entertained the idea of moving down via a trade with the Phoenix Suns: “But another scenario has piqued the franchise’s interest. The Lakers held internal discussions about trading back two spots to No. 4 if the Suns were to offer them a 2018 first-round pick. The Suns hold their own 2018 pick (which currently projects to be a high lottery pick) as well as the rights to the Miami Heat‘s 2018 pick.”
Los Angeles might not be interested in the Miami pick because of the trade protections, but a first-round pick from the Suns in 2018 for moving down two spots doesn’t sound like a bad deal given the pace of the rebuild.
Dropping two places won’t mean the end of the world for the Lakers in the long run. They won’t get a shot at Markelle Fultz after the trade for No. 1 anyway. Ball could easily fall to No. 4, and if not, the Lakers could still get a quality forward such as Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum, not to mention an explosive point like De’Aaron Fox.
Either way, a move down gives the Lakers options. The point guard position is clearly something president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and the front office want to address, though grabbing a forward and running more small ball while shifting around guys like Brandon Ingram isn’t out of the question.
And if a slight move down goes through, the team could pick quite high in next year’s draft while pursuing big-name free agents like George, too.
Near-Miss on a Move Up
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Then again, the other side to this was the chance the Lakers might try to pull off a blockbuster of their own by moving up to No. 1.
This idea came up quite often in circles here and there, though the obvious flaw was whether the Lakers would be able to keep up in a bidding war. By the end of the Celtics-76ers talks, compensation reached a ridiculous three first-round picks, according to Wojnarowski.
He later explained the Lakers had an interest in sticking in the sweepstakes as long as possible:
Lakers had interest in pursuing a deal for No. 1 pick/Fultz, but Sixers ability to potentially deliver 3 FRP’s in deal too much to overcome. https://t.co/9aBUwqVMiq
This should say everything fans need to know about Fultz more than what the Lakers want to do from a positional standpoint.
Fultz might not be the sheer passer and floor general Ball is, but he’s an athletic, versatile guard who can shoot from range and get others involved. Philadelphia thought him special enough to gamble the future so he could play alongside Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.
From the sounds of it, Los Angeles wanted to do something similar with D’Angelo Russell, Ingram and Julius Randle, not to mention a possible major free-agent add.
Alas, the Lakers came up short in the ammunition department. Based on the above ideas, they’re open to almost anything, including a move down.
The Paul George Conundrum
Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Based on the note from Wojnarowski, it sounds like the Lakers could have George right now if they really wanted him.
Silence on the part of the Lakers right now, though, suggests quite a bit.
According to a report by ESPN.com, the Lakers don’t have any plans to give up a big haul for the soon-to-be free agent: “Although George would constitute a significant acquisition for Los Angeles, the rebuilding Lakers do not currently intend to part with any of their young assets in a trade with the Pacers, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.”
This should be right along the lines of what Lakers fans want to hear.
Indiana’s already working the phones, yet, as Wojnarowski pointed out, this classifies as a rental market:
Sources: Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard engaging teams on trading Paul George, but so far, not Lakers. There’s a rental market, but how robust? https://t.co/oM9XrATMr9
If it’s a rental market and George has made it clear the Lakers are his preferred destination, why cough up hard-earned (well, in a way) assets accumulated over the course of a rebuild to get him now?
Take it a step further—letting another team grab George as a rental and keeping every future-looking piece only makes the Lakers look more attractive to George in 2018. Bring him to town now and make him suffer through what could be a rough growing season for the young roster and, well, maybe he again takes a peek at the market in 2018 anyway.
The biggest risk here is the Cleveland Cavaliers stepping in and stealing George via trade, which is something it sounds like the Finals participants might do, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. If George goes to Cleveland, wins a ring and makes a pact with LeBron James to stay in town, hindsight won’t look kindly on inaction by the Lakers right now.
At the end of the day, there’s something admirable about the Lakers sticking to their rebuilding plan and not getting overzealous about this situation. It seems the front office would agree on the idea of not allowing the threat of hindsight to force a potential mistake.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.