Moritz Wagner

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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: Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka butchered Lakers’ 2018 draft process then implicated Josh Hart

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The Lakers had a lot of problems under former president Magic Johnson and current general manager Rob Pelinka.

Several manifested during the 2018 draft.

The Lakers had two war rooms – one for Johnson and Pelinka, one for other executives and scouts involved in the process – according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The other staffers reportedly thought Villanova’s Omari Spellman was the highest-ranking player remaining on the Lakers’ draft board at No. 25, so they were shocked to watch on television as the Lakers selected Michigan’s Moritz Wagner

Holmes:

Later, Pelinka told staffers he had heard negatives about Spellman and that he had discussed the issues with Lakers forward Josh Hart, who had played at Villanova before Spellman. Hart, he said, agreed there were concerns. Staffers were taken aback, and some said it represented another instance of a unilateral decision being made by Pelinka or Johnson without the involvement of key figures who would normally be central to the decision. “For him to covertly go to a player and go behind everybody’s else’s back, that’s the problem,” one coaching staff member said.

It also represented what multiple basketball operations staffers said was one of several instances in which Pelinka was quick to say that others — such as agents or players — were at least partly if not wholly responsible for certain decisions, which staffers believe was Pelinka’s way of deflecting blame and from taking ownership or responsibility.

Some staffers have even sought out those whom Pelinka has said he has spoken with, just to confirm whether such conversations took place. In this instance, a source close to Hart said the two spoke briefly, for less than a minute, and Hart offered that Spellman had a great work ethic, but he was concerned about his fitness.

Spellman:

Hart:

By this account, Hart did nothing wrong. Spellman redshirted during Hart’s final season at Villanova. So, Hart was worth asking for intel. If anything, his positive review of Spellman’s work ethic should have improved Spellman’s standing. Stating concerns about Spellman’s fitness was hardly sharing inside information. We could all see that.

The real issue was Lakers management’s absurd handling of the situation.

It’s wild they had two separate war rooms. It’s wild they deviated from their draft board. It’s wild they pinned it on Hart.

It’d be difficult to design a setup to breed more distrust.

Not that Pelinka needed to make the extra effort. The craziest part of this story is that Lakers staffers heard so many cockamamie stories from Pelinka, the employees made a habit of trying to verify them.

And now Pelinka is in charge!

Whether he’s a pathological liar or just presented as one by bitter anonymous sources, Pelinka clearly has many relationships to mend. Maybe including with Hart.

Report: Lakers offering eight players for Anthony Davis

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The Lakers reportedly improved their offer for Anthony Davis.

How much?

Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The deal could include Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac and Moritz Wagner. It could include additional picks and pick swaps.

But that’s nearly everything Los Angeles could send the Pelicans.

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram are young players with positive value. The first-rounders obviously hold positive value. Solomon Hill (guaranteed $12,758,781 next season) carries negative value, and New Orleans would like to unload him. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley have neutral-value expiring contracts to facilitate the trade.

Still, this offer doesn’t make Davis-to-Los Angeles a forgone conclusion. A few questions remain: Do the the Pelicans hold interest in those young Lakers? What years are the picks, and how are they protected? What offers have other teams made?

But this offer could easily put the Lakers in the driver’s seat for Davis.

Report: To get Anthony Davis, Lakers must start trade offer with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, first-round pick

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Anthony Davis hasn’t given the Pelicans a list of preferred destinations.

But he hired LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul. LeBron has openly recruited Davis to Los Angeles. The Lakers have reportedly preserved assets to trade for Davis.

There is good reason so much attention is focused on the Lakers.

What would it take for them to get Davis?

Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac and a first-round pick for Davis doesn’t work under the salary cap. If the Lakers added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, it would.

And sure, why not? The Lakers should rush to make that trade.

Their young players – also including Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Moritz Wagner – are merely fine. If Los Angeles can get a superstar like Davis for that group, go for it.

I’m not convinced the Pelicans will be amenable, but the Pelicans haven’t been well-run. Who knows what they’d do?

The Lakers’ best leverage is Davis saying he’d re-sign only with them. At that point, maybe an offer of Ball, Kuzma, Zubac, Caldwell-Pope and a first-round pick looks appealing enough. But even then, other teams might risk trading for Davis – who has a season and a half left before free agency – as a super-rental/someone they must convince to re-sign.

It’s already disappointing in New Orleans that Davis wants to leave. Getting this package for him would only further the letdown.

Report: Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. talking contract extension

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When the Cavaliers made the trade deadline deal with the Lakers last February, they got Larry Nance Jr. (the son of a Cavs legend) and Jordan Clarkson (surrendering Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a 2018 1st round draft pick that became Moritz Wagner).

Nance is the one the Cavaliers seem intent on keeping, and they may extend him, reports Tom Withers of the Associated Press.

This seems like a good fit for both sides, if they can find a number that works. The Cavaliers are committed to not bottoming out right now — which is why Kevin Love got a new massive contract — and Nance fits with that.

This is not going to be a max contract, but Nance has made it clear he likes playing in Cleveland and wants to stay. After he came over last season he averaged 8.9 points on 55 percent shooting, 7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers could go up with LeBron James no longer in the picture.