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LeBron, Anthony Davis and…Kemba? What are Lakers’ next steps to contention?

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We have seen this before, the Lakers add a superstar player — Pau Gasol via trade, Shaquille O’Neal via free agency— and instantly vault up to being a title contender.

Of course, we have seen the Lakers add superstars in the offseason — say Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — and watch the whole thing blow up due to injuries and chemistry issues.

Neither of these scenarios is completely off the table with the LeBron James and Anthony Davis Lakers, which is going to be a reality now after the Lakers have agreed to a trade for Davis that sends Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first round picks (including the No. 4 pick in the 2019 Draft) to New Orleans.

The Lakers look like contenders on paper right now, but they have to round out the roster in a smart way.

Two key things will differentiate success and failure with these Lakers.

First is injuries. It’s obvious to state, but Davis has an injury history, and LeBron missed 18 games with a groin injury last season, the most time he has ever missed with an injury, but that’s what comes with age. If either or both miss significant time, this all comes apart.

Second is how the Lakers round out the roster. That is something the core of this Lakers’ front office did very poorly last season, we will see if lessons were learned.

After the trade, the Lakers will have on the roster LeBron, Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga… and that’s it. They need to add 10 players.

Los Angeles going to try and add a third star.

The Lakers will have $27.7 million available in cap space on July 1 — that is not enough to sign Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker to max deals. Both of them have been linked to the Lakers on various levels.

Sources have told me that after qualifying for a “supermax” contract extension (five years, $221 million), Walker is leaning heavily toward staying in Charlotte, a city he has grown to love (and his family enjoys). He could even give the Hornets a little hometown discount on the back end of that deal and make more than the max the Lakers or any other team could offer him. The question is, does this trade and the chance to chase a ring alter Walker’s thinking?

Butler, also, reportedly is leaning toward re-signing with the Sixers if they offer him a full five-year, $191 million max deal as expected (with Butler’s injury history, that fifth year only Philly can offer will matter to him). The same question about this deal changing his mindset applies to Butler as well.

The Lakers also could go after Kyrie Irving, although a number of people around the league view that as a longshot.

What the Lakers could do to max out Walker/Butler/Irving, as suggested by cap guru and consultant to NBA teams and agents Larry Coon, is to draft whoever the Pelicans want at No. 4, sign that player July 1, then trade him 30 days later (the first chance he is eligible) as part of the Davis deal where the salaries match up. It would delay the actual Davis trade but the  Lakers would have the $32.5 needed for a max slot for a player with 7-9 years experience.

The Lakers also could go after guys who are not stars but are high level role players and may just be a better fit, such as J.J. Redick. The Lakers could use that $27 million to land three or more quality, solid NBA rotation players. That’s an internal discussion Los Angeles need to have.

Beyond that, the Lakers will have the room exception at $4.8 million and no other space.

Just like last year, the Lakers will need to bring in veterans on minimum contracts — and this time they may want to get some shooting in the mix. The challenge there is guys are taking minimum contracts for a reason, if they could secure longer and more lucrative deals they would. There are far fewer vets willing to take a lot less to chase a ring than fans realize.

These are first world problems for the Lakers, they have so enough elite stars its hard to round out the roster. The art is in doing it right because there are other contenders out there who have done just that.

Report: Tim Connelly rejects Wizards, staying with Nuggets

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Nuggets president Tim Connelly could have led the Wizards’ front office, worked close to his native Baltimore and presumably gotten a raise from his reported $2 million salary.

Instead, he’ll stay in Denver.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a huge win for Denver and even bigger setback for Washington.

Connelly has put the Nuggets into a great position. They’re young and good in a combination rarely seen in NBA history. Connelly drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round then built around him a short time later. This season, Denver won 54 games and reached Game 7 of the second round with 24-year-old Jokic flanked by Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap.

More decisions always lie ahead – notably Millsap’s $30 million team option for next season. But the Nuggets’ core is already in place and mostly under team control.

The Wizards need far more work. John Wall‘s contract is arguably the NBA’s worst. Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard are also roadblocks. Several key players will be free agents this summer. If he makes an All-NBA team this season, Bradley Beal be eligible for a super-max extension – a tricky decision for the club.

It would have been great for Washington to entrust Connelly with all that. He has proven excellent at his job.

Troy Weaver, Danny Ferry or Tommy Sheppard might do well for the Wizards. But they’re candidates who offer far less certainty.

Report: Wizards offer top front office job to Nuggets’ Tim Connelly

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This should not be a surprise. The entire, deliberate process to find a new president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards seemed to be pointing this way.

The question now is, will he take the job?

Washington has offered its top spot in basketball operations to Tim Connelly, the man who has the same job in Denver and built that team into a rising threat in the West, reports the staff at the Athletic.

The Wizards have offered Nuggets president Tim Connelly their head front office job and are hopeful he will accept, sources tell The Athletic’s Shams Charania, David Aldridge and Fred Katz.

Connelly left the NBA Combine on Friday to travel to Washington for a meeting with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis… The offer is for four years, according to sources.

Connelly is a Baltimore native who started his basketball career with the Wizards, he reportedly considers it his “dream job.” However, he has strong ties in Denver, particularly with owner Josh Kroenke, plus he has built an impressive Nuggets’ team just starting to tap its potential.

What we don’t know from the report is how much money was involved. Connelly reportedly makes $2 million a season with his new Denver contract (just extended in February) and that is on the low end for successful presidents of basketball operations. Did Leonsis offer more, and by enough to lure Connelly away?

Tommy Sheppard has served as the interim GM and it’s been reported he could stay on as Connelly’s No. 2, if Connelly is hired. If Denver loses Connelly, it is expected GM Arturas Karnisovas would be promoted. 

Connelly, if he takes the job, will take over a team at a crossroads. It all starts with Bradley Beal, the Wizards best player, who has two more years on his contract and is eligible for an extension this summer. Do the Wizards want to extend his contract and build around him or trade him to jump-start the rebuild without him? Washington also is stuck with John Wall‘s anchor of a contract — a projected $171 million over the next four years for a player who is seriously injured — plus will be paying Ian Mahinmi $15.5 million next season and Dwight Howard at $5.6 million.

Report: Washington gets permission to meet with Denver’s Tim Connelly about GM job

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It was reported on Thursday that the Wizards were ramping up their pursuit of Tim Connelly, the president of basketball operations in Denver, to take the same position in our nation’s capital. He had long been Washington’s top target, but the team had to wait until Denver fell out of the playoffs.

It has, and now comes a report Denver has given permission to Washington to talk to Connelly, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly will meet with the Washington Wizards to discuss the franchise’s president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Connelly, a primary target of the Wizards’ search, is expected to meet with Washington as soon as Friday, league sources said.

Connelly is a Baltimore native with strong ties to the mid-Atlantic region, and he also got his start with the Wizards, getting his front office start in the organization. Denver just gave Connelly a contract extension last February, but the Wizards are the one job Connelly would consider leaving Denver for and the team will give him that out if he wants it.

Also, Connelly reportedly makes $2 million a year, well below the going rate for an experienced and successful president of basketball operations. Washington owner Ted Leonsis may nearly double that salary.

This would not be a formal interview, but if Connelly is offered the job he is expected to take it.

Denver has another reason they are confident in letting Connelly talk to Washington, reports Wojnarowski.

The Denver ownership’s confidence in general manager Arturas Karnisovas’ ability to assume full control of basketball operations, if needed, also played a part in its decision to allow Connelly to hear out Washington owner Ted Leonsis, league sources said.

This sounds like a deal on its way to getting done. If so it would be a huge get for the Wizards, who are looking to fill the position held for 16 seasons by Ernie Grunfeld. Tommy Sheppard is serving as the interim GM and it’s been reported he could stay on as Connelly’s No. 2, if Connelly is hired.

Connelly, or whoever takes on that job, has some big decisions to make. That starts with Bradley Beal, the Wizards best player, who has two more years on his contract and is eligible for an extension this summer. Do the Wizards want to extend his contract and build around him or trade him to jump-start the rebuild without him. Washington also is stuck with John Wall‘s anchor of a contract — a projected $171 million over the next four years for a player who is seriously injured — plus will be paying Ian Mahinmi $15.5 million next season and Dwight Howard at $5.6 million.

Warriors and Rockets can’t escape each other

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In Game 1 of the 2015 Western Conference finals, the Warriors beat the Rockets by going small with Draymond Green at center. The strategy was still in its infancy. The term "death lineup" hadn’t even been coined yet.

Twenty games later, and small ball is still defining the Golden State-Houston playoff matchup.

These teams have been developing and honing their strategies against each other for years. After preferring to go big with Dwight Howard at center, the Rockets now deploy their own hyper-effective small lineup with P.J. Tucker at center. That unit led Houston to a Game 4 win last night, ensuring the second-round series will go at least six games.

That means the Rockets and Warriors will meet in at least 23 playoff games in the last five years. That’s the most playoff games between franchises in a five-year span since the Knicks and Heat played 24 from 1997-2000. The Bulls and Knicks, who met 25 times from 1992-96, are the only other teams to play more playoff games in a five-year span since the NBA-ABA merger.

A rundown of Golden State-Houston playoff matchups:

  • 2015 conference finals: Warriors 4, Rockets 1
  • 2016 first round: Warriors 4, Rockets 1
  • 2018 conference finals: Warriors 4, Rockets 3
  • 2019 second round: Warriors 2, Rockets 2

This familiarity has developed into bad blood, tight games and a highly anticipated finish to this series. This is a rivalry that has brewed unlike any other in a while.

Here are the most playoff games between teams in a five-year (or, occasionally, four-year) span (series wins in parentheses):

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