Julius Randle

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Report: Lakers confident they can trade Jordan Clarkson to clear cap space next summer

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The Lakers have made little secret of their desire to chase – maybe even two – max free agents next summer. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins could all be available.

Three Two big problems:

The Lakers unloaded Mozgov’s long-term deal on the Nets, but Deng (guaranteed $54 million over the  next three years) and Clarkson (guaranteed $37.5 over the next three years) remain as impediments to cap space.

LeBron and Westbrook can each earn 35% of the salary cap. George and Cousins can each earn 30% of the salary cap. So, to lure two of them, the Lakers will need 60%-70% of the cap available.

If the Lakers renounce all their free agents – including Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Julius Randle – and dump Deng, their percentage of the cap available projects to be about 63%.

But that wouldn’t be enough for a max duo that includes LeBron and/or Westbrook. And it’d take a significant sweetener for another team to take Deng.

On the other hand, trading Clarkson would likely be far easier. If the Lakers dump him and stretch Deng, they’d project to have 67% of the cap available. With Ivica Zubac‘s 2018-19 salary unguaranteed and Thomas Bryant‘s behind a team option, that’s within striking distance of 70% – especially considering the exact salary cap won’t be determined until next summer. For now, we’re relying on estimates.

How viable is that path?

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

One person within the organization who isn’t permitted to speak publicly on the subject told Bleacher Report the team is confident it can move Clarkson if needed to open space.

The implication seems to be the Lakers believe they could give away Clarkson without attaching a sweetener.

I’m skeptical.

Even next summer, Clarkson will still be owed $12,500,000 and $13,437,500 the following two seasons. That’s a lot in a tighter cap environment.

Clarkson can get to his spots inside the arc, but he doesn’t draw enough fouls or make enough 3-pointers. It’s tough to score efficiently while so reliant on 2-point jumpers. Clarkson is also a poor defender, and he hasn’t maintain the distributing ability he showed as a rookie.

He could rehab his value with a strong season – especially if he plays more point guard, where the Lakers have just Lonzo Ball and Tyler Ennis.

Still, I think the most likely question is: How much must the Lakers attach to Clarkson to dump him? The odds are against them being able to give him away without also surrendering positive assets.

If Clarkson plays well enough that the Lakers must include only moderate assets to dump him and the salary cap lands high enough that unloading Clarkson plus stretching Deng leaves 70% of the cap open, that’d be a massive win for the Lakers.

Then, they “just” have to convince two of LeBron, Westbrook, George and Cousins to come to Los Angeles.

Paul George: If Thunder reach conference finals or beat Warriors, ‘I’d be dumb to want to leave’

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Paul George supposedly told his former Pacers teammates for years he wanted to join the Lakers. George publicly flirted with the Lakers. The Lakers reportedly received word not to trade for George, because he might just sign in Los Angeles anyway in 2018 free agency. George told the Pacers he’d leave Indiana, reportedly preferably for the Lakers. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George was still reportedly telling friends he planned to sign with the Lakers.

Is George, a Southern California native, truly hell-bent on the Lakers?

Now, we can hear it straight from him.

George, via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

“I grew up a Lakers and a Clippers fan,” George says. “I idolized Kobe. There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, who doesn’t want to play for their hometown? That’s a dream come true, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city. But it’s definitely been overstated. For me, it’s all about winning. I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”

“It’s too early for L.A.,” he says. “It would have to be a situation where the ball gets rolling and guys are hopping on. This guy commits, that guy commits. ‘Oh s—, now there’s a team forming.’ It has to be like that.”

“I’m in OKC, so hopefully me and Russ do a good enough job and make it to the conference finals and love the situation, why not recruit someone to come build it with us? I’m open in this whole process.”

I’m a bit surprised George laid down such direct benchmarks – reaching the conference finals or upsetting the Warriors – but they, especially the former, are achievable.

Russell Westbrook is the best teammate George, who reached consecutive conference finals in Indiana, has ever played with. The Thunder have built a quality supporting cast with Steven Adams, a re-signed Andre Roberson and newly acquired Patrick Patterson. Even Raymond Felton plugs a major hole at backup point guard.

The Thunder – who won several coin-flip games – probably weren’t as good as their 47-35 record last year, so assessing improvement can be difficult. But they should be better this year.

George is a great fit. Westbrook’s singular offensive ability allows Oklahoma City to fill the floor with defense-first players, and George is another wing stopper with Roberson. For a star, George is also extremely comfortable playing off the ball – a must around Westbrook. Yet, George can also take the lead, easing the burden on Westbrook at times.

Staying with the Thunder could look very appealing next year.

But so could joining the Lakers, especially if George gives them a hometown advantage. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. aren’t yet ready to win, but George is spending a season of their growing pains in Oklahoma City. By next summer, the Lakers’ young core will be closer to ascending. The Lakers, who already dumped Timofey Mozgov, are also working toward clearing enough cap space to lure multiple stars at once, as George alluded to.

He spoke in terms of other players joining Los Angeles first, though his commitment would go a long way in recruiting. The Lakers probably can’t bank on that at this point.

Neither can the Thunder.

But the battle lines are being drawn – surprisingly bluntly, by George himself.

Report: Lakers trade D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov to Nets for Brook Lopez, 27th pick

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The Lakers were looking to unload the Timofey Mozgov mistake they made last summer and start to clear out cap space for a push next summer.

The Brooklyn Nets were looking to move the expiring contract of Brook Lopez — and his quality offensive big man play — for a promising young player. Say, for example, D'Angelo Russell.

Those two sides have reached an agreement, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers now have the No. 2, 27, and 28 pick in the first round (28th was Houston’s they got in the Lou Williams trade). Expect them to try and use those picks in a deal to get Paul George (throwing in Julius Randle or Jordan Clarkson), something Marc Stein of ESPN noted, but I doubt that’s enough.

As noted, for the Lakers this move is about clearing the way for Lonzo Ball, and to clear cap space in 2018 to chase LeBron James and, sign/re-sign Paul George. It’s a smart play by the Magic/Pelinka front office that could have the Lakers as a contender in 201-19 if the dominos all fall, but the price is fairly high because Russell has potential.

For the Nets, they get that potential. The Lakers had questions about Russell’s work ethic and maturity (re: the Nick Young mess), but he’s just 21 and nobody who watched him questions his ability to see the court off the pick-and-roll and make plays. He just has to start doing it consistently. Coach Kenny Atkinson and the Nets may be better able to develop him, he will see heavy P&R calls with the floor spread and some shooters around him. Brooklyn has the cap space to take on bad contracts like Mozgov to get guys they want, and this is a good reclamation process.

Rumor: Lakers will not include No. 2 pick, Brandon Ingram in Paul George deal. Why would they?

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With Paul George‘s people telling the Pacers he’s going to be a free agent next summer and wants to head to the Lakers, there is only one reason for the Lakers to get involved in a trade for him now: Fear he gets dealt to Cleveland or Miami or wherever, wins some, decides he likes it and stays.

The Lakers can be proactive and make a trade now, but they shouldn’t give up any player or pick they think has real value. Which brings us to something Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said in his podcast this week (hat tip RealGM) :

“The Lakers aren’t giving them Brandon Ingram,” added Wojnarowski. “They aren’t giving them the No. 2 pick.”

Why would they? The Lakers shouldn’t overpay for a guy that wants to come there anyway. It probably goes beyond just those two things.

The Lakers might do one young player — Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — and the 28th overall pick in the draft (via Houston in the Lou Williams deal) to get something done. At most. L.A. would love to unload one of the bad Timofey Mozgov/Luol Deng contracts, but the Pacers are going to ask for more than one young player and one pick to take that on.

The Pacers are going to talk to every team in the league and take the best deal on the table. It’s simple for them. It seems unlikely the Lakers will have the best offer since they believe they can land him a year from now as a free agent and give up nothing.

 

Report: Lakers trying to acquire another first-round pick

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The Lakers, who have the Nos. 2 and 28 picks in the upcoming draft, were reportedly discussing trading the second pick.

What do they want?

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to acquire another first-round pick for Thursday’s NBA draft, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have engaged at least two teams in the lottery, sources said, as they search for players to improve their outside shooting and perimeter defense.

While there have been inquires on the No. 2 pick, sources said it remains unlikely the Lakers would trade out of that position.

Trading down from No. 2 with the Kings, who have the Nos. 5 and 10 picks, would be a relatively simple way to land an extra first-rounder. But, as Shelburne says, the Lakers don’t seem particularly keen on parting with the second pick.

The Lakers have a roster full of players new team president Magic Johnson didn’t acquire, a fact he made glaringly clear when he declared everyone but Brandon Ingram tradable. D'Angelo Russell or Julius Randle – and maybe even Jordan Clarkson or Larry Nance Jr. – could fetch a first-rounder and allow Johnson to choose a player he wants rather than inherits.

We’re past the days of big-market teams like the Lakers just buying first-round picks. The salary scale and team control makes first-rounders just too valuable. But the Lakers have ammo to acquire another first-rounder.

They must be mindful of Paul George – what assets, if any, they want to trade for him. If they don’t trade, they need a plan to open max cap space for him next summer.

As long as they keep that in mind, there are plenty of logical ways for the Lakers to add a first-rounder while keeping the second pick. It’ll just cost them one of the talented young players they already have.