Timofey Mozgov

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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.

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

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Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.

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.

D’Angelo Russell makes first appearance at Barclays Center, gets booed

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Welcome to New York, D'Angelo Russell.

The Brooklyn Nets made a smart gamble before the draft and traded Brook Lopez (and his expiring contract) to the Lakers for the bloated contract of Timofey Mozgov and the promise of Russell. It’s a smart move to see if coach Kenny Atkinson can lift up the young point guard who shows promise but is inconsistent.

Nets fans don’t seem so thrilled. Russell showed up for the Big3 games at Barclays Center, and he did not feel the love, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

These are New York fans, they would boo George Washington.

It’s simple for Russell, he just has to win them over. He gets a fresh start in Brooklyn and the baggage the Lakers saw him carrying is gone. It’s his chance to win a city over and be part of the future — but he will have to earn it.

Otherwise, it won’t be long or he will hear those boos again.

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.