Is there a Lonzo trade out there?

(photo cred Sportsnewsinstant.com)

Immediate follow up question: Should the Lakers even consider trading Lonzo?

Do yourself a favor and search “Lonzo Trade” on Twitter. Grab a coffee, maybe a snack wrap from McDonalds, and settle in somewhere cozy. Then look at all the angry tweets from Lakers fans, urging Magic and Pelinka to ship away their young point guard for a whichever talented guard exploded for their team that night. Last night, it was Kemba Walker (more on him to come.)

There is a case to be made for trading Lonzo, despite him still possessing a high ceiling. On the other hand, a case can be made that Los Angeles might be one of the worst fits for Lonzo regarding his development; he may never reach that high ceiling next to LeBron.

Therefore, this will be a blog of five parts: two quick arguments on why and why not Lonzo should be traded, two possible trade destinations and a final statement. Buckle up, folks.

1. Taking my Ball and going home

When the UCLA product was in his pre-draft process, it was easy to see how scouts fell in love with his ability to pass the ball. People were comparing Ball to Jason Kidd, and saying that his floor would be someone like Ricky Rubio, but with the potential to be a better shooter and better defender.

I cannot emphasize his extraordinary vision enough. Ball simply sees reads more quickly than other guards; some guards don’t even see them at all. Take this clip below, for example. Ball starts passing the ball to a cutting Kyle Kuzma before Kuz even leaves from his spot in the corner.

The majority of NBA guards either won’t see this read, or when they do, it is a step late which will force the cutter to either adjust for the score, or allow the defense to catch up. Ball’s feel for the game is innate, and it shows in his passing ability.

Ball’s defense has been encouraging as well. He has good lateral quickness, is a smooth athlete, and has a decent wingspan to match that 6’6″ frame. At times, his defensive IQ is just as good as his offensive IQ, and when the effort is there, Ball shows the potential to be a plus defender who is capable of guarding multiple positions. See for yourself.

At the end of the day, Ball has been both frustrating and tantalizing at times. His rookie season stats, however, put him in historic standing. Take a peak at home many players averaged at least 10 points, 7 assists and 1.5 steals their rookie year.

Query Results Table
Crit Crit Crit Crit
Rk Player Season Age Tm Lg PTS AST STL WS
1 Magic Johnson 1979-80 20 LAL NBA 18.0 7.3 2.4 10.5
2 Chris Paul 2005-06 20 NOK NBA 16.1 7.8 2.2 10.4
3 Ben Simmons 2017-18 21 PHI NBA 15.8 8.2 1.7 9.2
4 Mark Jackson 1987-88 22 NYK NBA 13.6 10.6 2.5 7.6
5 Phil Ford 1978-79 22 KCK NBA 15.9 8.6 2.2 5.7
6 Sherman Douglas 1989-90 23 MIA NBA 14.3 7.6 1.8 4.4
7 Allen Iverson 1996-97 21 PHI NBA 23.5 7.5 2.1 4.1
8 Jason Kidd 1994-95 21 DAL NBA 11.7 7.7 1.9 3.7
9 Tim Hardaway 1989-90 23 GSW NBA 14.7 8.7 2.1 3.3
10 Isiah Thomas 1981-82 20 DET NBA 17.0 7.8 2.1 2.3
11 Kenny Smith 1987-88 22 SAC NBA 13.8 7.1 1.5 2.2
12 John Wall 2010-11 20 WAS NBA 16.4 8.3 1.8 2.2
13 Lonzo Ball 2017-18 20 LAL NBA 10.2 7.2 1.7 2.0
14 Ricky Rubio 2011-12 21 MIN NBA 10.6 8.2 2.2 2.0
15 Gary Grant 1988-89 23 LAC NBA 11.9 7.1 2.0 -0.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2018.

2. It’s your Ball now

Sometimes, we have a tendency to overthink the game.

Lonzo Ball’s best skill is his ability to create for others. In order to do this, he must have the ball in his hands often. Playing alongside LeBron James, Brandon Ingram and Kuzma, Ball does not have the ball often enough to maximize his impact on the game. Logic.

Specifically, I compared Ball’s average second per touch to other players who either were among the league leaders in assists or had a similar playing style to Ball. John Wall, Ricky Rubio and Ben Simmons, as well as a plethora of other creators, all averaged more seconds per touch than Ball (NBA.com) What’s more, they led Ball by considerable margins as well, as Lonzo averaged a mediocre 3.82 seconds per touch.

Yet, Ball finished the league 13th in total touches per game last season. There is conflicting data here. How can Ball get so many touches while not keeping the ball in his hands for too long?

The answer lies in the Lakers’ pace. They are 3rd in the league in pace, which means they get up and down the court a lot. They are 2nd in the league in fast break points and also 2nd in total possessions per game. These dudes fly up and down the court, and Lonzo is often the creator. His grab and go ability allows him to do this.

So what do we make of this?

Lonzo is a beast at finding people in transition. He makes full court outlet passes reminiscent of Kevin Love. Yet, Lonzo struggles in the pick and roll. In order to reach his ceiling, Lonzo has to improve this area, something of which he is surely capable of doing. Ball finished in the 17th percentile for pick and roll ball handlers last year, and despite improving to the 45th percentile so far this year, Lonzo still hasn’t mastered this part of his game.

With LeBron and other creators on the Lakers, Lonzo will not get the chance to develop fully into a complete NBA playmaker. If Magic and co. want Lonzo to be a transition god who takes 57 percent of his field goals from 3-point land, then so be it. But they would be wasting an entire area of his game which if developed correctly, could see Lonzo become one of the best point guards in the league.

As of right now, the Lakers are using him as a 3&D, grab and go fastbreak leader, although he can be so much more. If that is their plan for Lonzo, why not trade him for an established star who is a better fit besides LeBron? Speaking of which…

3. Charlotte, an old trading partner

We all remember how the Hornets gave Kobe Bryant to the Lakers, right? Perhaps now is a time for karma to swing back Charlotte’s way.

Kemba Walker is one of the most underrated stars in this game. His pick and roll game is elite. Kemba finished in the 92nd percentile as a PnR ball handler last year for a dismal Hornets team. The dude’s lack of team success probably leads to him being overlooked as one of the league’s premier guards. But let’s see how his last last season compares to the 2017-18 season of other stars such as Kyrie Irving, Dame Lillard, Kyle Lowry and John Wall.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season Age G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL TOV PTS
1 Kyrie Irving 2017-18 25 60 8.9 18.1 .491 2.8 6.8 .408 .568 3.9 4.4 .889 3.8 5.1 1.1 2.3 24.4
2 Damian Lillard 2017-18 27 73 8.5 19.4 .439 3.1 8.6 .361 .519 6.8 7.4 .916 4.5 6.6 1.1 2.8 26.9
3 Kyle Lowry 2017-18 31 78 5.2 12.1 .427 3.1 7.6 .399 .553 2.9 3.3 .854 5.6 6.9 1.1 2.3 16.2
4 Kemba Walker 2017-18 27 80 7.4 17.0 .431 2.9 7.5 .384 .516 4.5 5.3 .864 3.1 5.6 1.1 2.2 22.1
5 John Wall 2017-18 27 41 6.8 16.3 .420 1.5 4.1 .371 .466 4.3 5.9 .726 3.7 9.6 1.4 3.9 19.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2018.

Kemba is right on pace with his colleagues. This year, he is putting up a crazy 28.7/6.1/4.5 stat line while taking 10.3 triples per game and making a wild 37 percent of them. He is wonderful fit next to LeBron too.

Not only does Kemba have the intangibles to play with LeBron, his on-court style meshes well with what the King needs. For instance, Kemba is more than a ball-dominant point guard. This season, he is taking 4.5 3-pointers per game on catch and shoot opportunities, and sinking 38 percent of them. Wow.  This shows that Kemba can move around on off-ball action when LeBron is handling the rock.

Yet, Kemba can also take some of the offensive load away from LeBron. He is a pick and roll savant who can dish to open teammates or hit a deadly pull-up. I’m not kidding about the “deadly” part. Walker hits 45 percent of his 10 pull-up attempts per game, and 37 percent of his 5 pull-up triples per game. So far this year, those are better numbers than what CP3, Lowry, Irving, Lillard, Wall and that Harden guy have put up. He is a late game closer, for sure.

On a one-year, expiring deal, Los Angeles would have to get a wink-wink deal from Kemba that he would resign. But, the man is an excellent fit next to Lebron. He will turn 29 this season and seems to be getting better as he grows older.

Charlotte has a lot of incentive to make this deal too. They have a promising young core in the much improved Malik Monk and Miles Bridges. They cannot let Kemba walk in free agency for nothing in return. Landing Ball would be a steal. Charlotte could bottom out and pick up a high draft pick this year, giving them four solid players to build around going forward.

I know what you are thinking: “Lonzo Ball has more trade value than Kemba Walker.” Well, not so fast. What are the odds Lonzo Ball turns into a two-time All-Star and ever stars a season the way Kemba has this year? A better question: What are the odds Lonzo Ball ever plays as good as Kemba is playing this year? Of course, we all have differing opinions. But, Magic Johnson and company should seriously consider reaching out to the Michael Jordan and the Hornets.

The Trade:

kemba-trade.png

4. What’s up, Milwaukee

This is the one I will catch a lot of pushback on, I can feel it. Well, pushback from Bucks fans, most likely.

If there is one player who will challenge Walker for most underrated in the league, it is Khris Middleton. The guy can defend four positions and beat you from all three levels offensively. This year, my guy is putting up 19 per game on 46 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep, on 7 3-point attempts per game, mind you.

A two-way star, Middleton will be receiving a max contract this offseason that likely starts around $30 million per year. Ouch.

The Bucks already have a team payroll of $126 million for this season. Let’s do some projecting here. Next season, if they resign solely Middleton and no one else, their salary will be around $110 million. Keep in mind that they still have to resign at least one of either Eric Bledsoe or Malcolm Brogdon, both of whom will not come cheap. Oh, and given that Brook Lopez is having the most efficient shooting year of his career (62.5 eFG percentage!) the Bucks may want to bring him back too.

Let’s be generous and say that Brogdon, and not Bledsoe, comes back for $12 million per year. That brings their cap up to $122 million. Congrats (sarcasm), you aren’t bringing back Lopez in this scenario, or the rejuvenated Bledsoe.

The Bucks would be cap crunched for years if they resign Middleton. He is a wonderful talent, but does a core of Giannis, Middleton and X take the Bucks to a title? Hmmm. Let me present to you another option.

Send Lonzo Ball to Milwaukee for Khris Middleton. Sell high on the guy and get a guard with All-NBA potential. Replacing Ball for Middleton will see the Bucks salary (before any signings) be at $89 million next year. This gives them the flexibility to bring back both Lopez and either Brogdon or Bledsoe.

Lonzo would be a much better fit next to Giannis than he would next to Lebron. Despite having the Greek Freak on their team, Coach Bud and the Bucks still run a ton of action through Bledsoe, their point guard. In fact, Bledsoe is assisting on 28 percent of their buckets while on the court. Pretty good.

The Bucks play a style of basketball that would allow Lonzo to take advantage of his push-the-pace style. They are 5th in pace this year and 8th in fast break points. A Giannis-Ball fast break connection should give you shivers. Yet, they also run a great combo of free-flowing sets and traditional pick and roll basketball, giving Lonzo a place to develop the PnR game previously discussed.

Calm down Bucks fans, and let me tell you why you should consider this trade. In all likeliness, the Bucks ceiling with Middleton falls somewhere short of an NBA title. In a Eastern conference with a talent-heavy top four teams, you need to take a gamble to acquire top-end talent. That is the way the league has always been and will always be.

Lonzo Ball is not currently top-end talent, but he has the potential to be. If he hits, then the Bucks would be looking at an plus defensive player who is one of the best playmakers in the league and can space the floor too. Plus, he is cheap right now. Locking in Middleton means that the Bucks roster will stay the same for the foreseeable future, for better or for worse. Acquiring Ball gives Milwaukee a dice roll at supreme talent and cap flexibility for the future. Throw in another asset for good measure.

The Lakers should be all over this deal. In a lineup of Middleton, LeBron, Ingram and Hart, the Lakers would have four plus defenders who are super switchy. Also, a lineup of those four plus Kuzma gives LeBron the coveted “four shooters” lineup we want around him. Can the Lakers get better talent than Middleton, however?

middleton-trade.png

5. Closing statement

Jimmy Butler is resigning in Philadelphia. KD is not coming to LA; if he wants to be better than LeBron then he cannot play with LeBron. Klay Thompson is most likely staying put. Will DeMarcus Cousins recover from his injury, and if so does he sign in LA? Who knows. Kawhi? So far, we have heard nothing further about him coming to LA and if anything, he looks mighty comfortable in Toronto.

What’s the point? The free agency market –  or better yet, pre-agency market –  does not look too promising for the Lakers. Shoot, they couldn’t convince hometown star Paul George to sign. Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers still have a great shot at landing Kawhi. But should LA really put all their eggs in that basket?

If they strike out in free agency, a real possibility, then what does LA do next? Why not trade for Middleton or Kemba and have the leg up on resigning them? Lonzo won’t be the player he was drafted to be there, so send him out for a good return before his trade value plummets even more.

Thoughts? @Mattesposito_

PS. Here is how the rest of NBA Twitter feels about this so far…

https://twitter.com/MattEsposito_/status/1063912269539655682

 

 

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The most untouchable player for every Western Conference team

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry

Well, the doldrums of the NBA offseason did not last too long. The NBA world was rocked as Kawhi Leonard got shipped to Toronto. Conversely, DeMar DeRozan is now headed to San Antonio. Still, we must strive forward and continue on with the untouchables list.

If you missed the Eastern Conference list, then click here.

 

1. Dallas Mavericks – Luka Doncic

This is a no brainer. The Mavs just surrendered a future pick for the Slovenian point-forward. Doncic has the potential to be a transcendent NBA player. This pick and roll maestro will enter the league as one of its premier passers. If you need a reminder on just how good Doncic is, I dug up his ProCity Hoops profile for you.

 

2. Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic

What gave this one away? Jokic just signed a 5 yr/$147 million deal. The center finished last season with a better field goal percentage that Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins. Plus, he is one of the best passers in the game, regardless of position. Jokic finished 15th in assists per game last year, and 12th for total assists. Wow. This kid isn’t going anywhere.

 

3. Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry

Let’s get this out of the way. No one on this roster is getting traded anytime soon. This team has a few more finals appearances on the horizon, despite any players that LeBron guy lands in LA. While I do not expect a trade, I still chose Steph here. Trading him would be detrimental to the team’s fan base. You simply cannot throw away a home grown kid like Steph and expect everything to be okay.

 

4. Houston Rockets – James Harden

Did you expect anyone else? Here is a clip of every stepback J Harden hit last season.

5. Los Angeles Clippers – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Although it is merely summer league, this rookie has looked awesome. His octopus tentacles doubles as arms nowadays, and he used them for stealing basketballs. Offensively, he has the potential to play both guard positions. Jerry West has a steal on his hands.

Jerome Robinson was considered but, he does not have SGA’s ceiling. Tobias Harris was also in competition here, but his trade value is high enough to warrant being available. Check out SGA’s scouting report.

 

6. Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James

Moving on.

 

7. Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson Jr.

This was an easy selection. Triple J has looked like he will immediately be an elite rim protector in this league. On the other side of the ball he has shown promise by draining 8 thress during his first summer league game. His full report is here.

More importantly, however, it seems as though Memphis is looking to make the playoffs. They added Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple this offseason and drafted NBA ready Jevon Carter. In a loaded Western Conference, is this feasible? Memphis should be looking to unload Conley and Gasol instead of making the postseason.

 

8. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns

Kat is my most underrated player in this league. He put up statistics last year that have never been done before. Not one player in league history has put up a stat line of 54 percent FG%, 42 percent 3P% on at least 14 field goal attempts and 3.5 three-point attempts.

Offensively, he is the best scoring center in the league and it is not even as close as we think. Check out how his numbers from last season rank against the premier offensive centers in the league last year.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FTA FT% TRB AST PF PTS
1 DeMarcus Cousins 2017-18 48 8.5 18.0 .470 2.2 6.1 .354 6.3 11.9 .530 .530 8.2 .746 12.9 5.4 3.8 25.2
2 Joel Embiid 2017-18 63 8.1 16.8 .483 1.0 3.4 .308 7.0 13.4 .527 .514 7.4 .769 11.0 3.2 3.3 22.9
3 Al Horford 2017-18 72 5.1 10.5 .489 1.3 3.1 .429 3.8 7.3 .514 .553 1.7 .783 7.4 4.7 1.9 12.9
4 Nikola Jokic 2017-18 75 6.7 13.5 .499 1.5 3.7 .396 5.2 9.7 .538 .554 4.2 .850 10.7 6.1 2.8 18.5
5 Karl-Anthony Towns 2017-18 82 7.8 14.3 .545 1.5 3.5 .421 6.3 10.8 .585 .596 4.9 .858 12.3 2.4 3.5 21.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2018.
If you considered Andrew Wiggins for this list, seek help. Take a “me” day. With Jimmy Butler a free agent flight risk, KAT is the selection to go with.

9. New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis

The Brow is the future of the NBA. A 6’11” power forward (who should be playing center) who can shoot from all three levels and has DPOY potential? Sign me up. Davis was only 22-years-old when he led the NBA in both blocks and PER. He has an MVP season in him somewhere, hopefully the Pelicans can unlock it for him.

 

10. Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook

I debated Paul George here for a second. Why? A big name free agent signing like that in OKC will be rare going forward. What message would it send to the league if OKC just shipped him off? Despite this, Westbrook gets the nod. Not only is he an MVP player, but he is the heart and soul of Oklahoma basketball.

 

11. Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker

Because, duh. Devin Only two players have put up 24 point per game, 4 assists per game on 38 percent 3P shooting during their first 5 seasons in the league. One of them is Devin Booker. The other…Steph Curry.

DeAndre Ayton was never seriously considered here. He is a heck of a talent but, it is easier to find a rim protecting, three point shooting big than it is someone with Booker’s talent and ceiling. Josh Jackson was never truly in consideration.

 

12. Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard

I struggled with this pick. Half of me thinks that Portland should just blow it up. The West has gotten even harder and they look to be a team with a second round ceiling. Why pursue the same result every year, if that result is not winning a title?

The other half of me thinks that Portland may have just enough assets to acquire a third star. Zach Collins still has a ton of potential and Portland is very high on him. Anfernee Simons balled out during summer league and turned the heads of many executives. Gm Neil Oshey should certainly consider bringing Kevin Love back to his home state. Send a package of prospects and picks over to Cleveland. Buddy up Love with McCollum and Dame, go all in.

 

13. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox

This selection was harder than it looked. Marvin Bagley is the Kings new toy. The 2nd overall pick in last year’s draft was not ranked as the #2 overall prospect by many scouts. Yet, the Kings loved Bagley and his desire to actually want to play in NoCal. I had Bagley ranked behind duke teammate Wendell Carter, and through summer league is appeared that I was right to do so.

Fox is a different story. He will help rebuild a culture in Sac’Town. Fox may possibly be the quickest end to end player in the league, and he has a developing jumper. Having already shown leadership and clutchness, I would be willing to trade Bagley before Fox.

De'Aaron Fox
USA Today Sports

14. San Antonio Spurs – DeMar DeRozan

Aw. So sad, DeMar.

Yesterday I wrote that no one on the Raptors should be untouchable, and apparently GM Masai Ujiri agreed with me. San Antonio clearly wants to take advantage of the remaining years that they have with Pop (bad decision.) So, they went out and traded Kawhi for DeMar. Shipping him off now would only would blow my mind, literally. GM R.C Buford had made brilliant moves for the Spurs for almost two decades now, but this move was horrendous.

 

15. Utah Jazz – Donovan Mitchell

Spida Mitchell made a bunch of GMs look dumb last year. He looks like a modern day D Wade. Mitchell has an All-NBA ceiling and I cannot wait to watch him develop. Gobert was never truly in contention here. In fact, I would consider trading the big man at his peak value.

During last year’s playoffs, we saw how stretch bigs can draw rim protectors away from, well, the rim. Ask Joel Embiid to explain what Al Horford did to him. Gobert will be less and less effective in the playoffs as teams play smaller. For now though, rejoice in having one of the most exciting players in the game back in Utah.

 

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Relax, Lakers fans, it’s about the 2018-19 offseason, and beyond.

JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, KCP, Lance Stephenson.

I know, I had the same reaction too.

Sure, McGee made a positive impact on last year’s NBA Finals. During those same playoffs, Rondo proved he still has a ton of game left, as he toyed with a blazing hot Portland team. Caldwell-Pope had a decent year as well. And Lance, well Lance was doing Lance things, for better or for worse. Are these the sexiest signings to pair with LeBron James? No.

Want to know what is sexy? Those four signings were all one year deals.

Want to know what is even sexier? I am going to tell you why not going for broke this year is the best move the Lakers could have made, and do so in 3 reasons.

 

1. LeBron James and the need for rest

LeBron James
AP

When Michael Jordan retired from the NBA to pursue professional baseball, most of sports fandom was either confused or shocked. Or both. As LeBron approaches Jordan’s legacy, many analysts and pundits alike are keen on bringing up the fact that MJ simply walked away from the game. He did so at the height of his powers, no less.

LeBron can do something similar without actually leaving the game. The King has played 239 playoff games in his career. 239. Woah. Some simple math tells us that James has tacked on about 3 extra seasons onto his career so far (2.91, to be exact.) In total, Lebron has played about 18 seasons of professional basketball already!

Are the Lakers expected to win the title this year? Hell no. A Western Conference Finals appearance would be a huge success, while a semi-finals loss is the most likely outcome. By saving the extra miles on LeBron, Los Angele fans get to see him extend his prime. But, there may be a bonus as well…

LeBron is a rational man. Presumably, he signed with LA knowing that they would not truly compete for the title next year. But a man chasing Jordan has to pursue something, right? I fully expect for Lebron to have his sights set on the NBA MVP next year. He will not walk away from a single season without anything to show for it. If Kawhi is added to the Lakers, it only enhances his odds due to a greater chance at overall team success, something voters consider heavily. LeBron could win the MVP for a 5th time, and do so during season 16; a feat which had never been accomplished before.

 

2. A changing NBA landscape

Warriors-1.jpg

It pains me to say this, truly: Deep down, we all know who will win the 2018-2019 NBA Finals. My favorite team, the Boston Celtics. Okay, you can laugh a bit. In all seriousness, the winner will most likely be the Golden State Warriors.

Houston may have a healthy CP3 this time around, but they also lost core pieces such as Trevor Ariza (Phoenix) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Clippers.) Maybe the Rockets can add Carmelo, but I am skeptical that he would put them over the top. Philadelphia is a fun choice, and their chemistry will only grow, but can they get past a Celtics team that is adding a healthy Kyrie and Gordon Hayward? Cs versus Warriors. Pencil it in. Helluva series.

After next year, however…things get dicey.

Especially for some NBA contenders, and players who want to compete in the finals.

In the 2019-2020 NBA Offseason:

Golden State could lose Klay Thompson/Kevin Durant
Boston could lose Al Horford and/or Kyrie Irving
Minnesota could lose Jimmy Butler
San Antonio could will lose Kawhi Leonard

In the 2020-2021 NBA Offseason:

Golden State could lose Draymond Green, Iggy, or Shaun Livingston
Houston could lose Eric Gordon
Boston could lose Gordon Hayward/Al Horford

What’s the point? There is a very good chance that the superteams LeBron will face during the 2018-2019 season and playoffs will not be intact in the near future. Can the Warriors afford to max out 4 players? Bill Simmons, also known as the “Durant Whisperer,” recently went on a podcast and intimated that Durant could leave the Warriors in the not-so-distant future.

If Houston brings back Capela, will they be able to keep their key pieces as well? Will Kyrie and Gordon Hayward come back to a Cs team brimming with younger talent? These are all reasonable questions to ask. Even Philadelphia could have a Fultz problem, or lose the perpetually underrated JJ Redick, who is only getting better with age.

NBA player movement has never been as rampart. Lebron James has almost single handedly ushered in a new era for professional basketball; one where players leverage their stardom to decide where they want to play.

Despite a playoff drought which has lasted seemingly forever, this is not the year for Lakers fans to want a shot at the title.

 

3. Cap space, cap space, and more cap space.

LeBron James
CBS Sports

 

It would not be an article from me if I did not provide a graphic of a team’s future salary obligations, right? Without further ado…

lakers cap space.PNG

See those beautiful red rectangle things I drew? That represents how much money the Lakers owe their players in both 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. At first glance, it does not seem like they have too much cap space next year. Yet, check out what Zach Lowe said about the impending cap spikes:

Now things have gotten a little more interesting.

As of now, Magic Johnson and co. have about 28 million dollars in cap space to spend next year. If they trade away young assets Svi Mykhailiuk or Isaac Bonga, they can obtain enough space to make a free agent a max offer, or get damn close to it. Playing in LA with the best player of a generation may help persuade players to forget about a couple million dollars.

Imagine they sign Kawhi Leonard next offseason. According to Sam Vecenie, Kawhi could come at a max price of 32.4 million dollars during his first year. That would still leave LA with around 21 million dollars to spend the following offseason. Sure they have to decide if they want to match any restricted free agency deal for Brandon Ingram. Yet, if they use the stretch provision to get off of Luol Deng’s ugly contract, or trade him into space, they could get near the cap room to possibly bring in another big name free agent.

Oh, and you will want to check out the potential free agent crop for the next two years:

Kevin Durant
Kemba Walker
Klay Thompson
Goran Dragic
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Khris Middleton
Al Horford
Kyrie Irving
Tobias Harris
DeAndre Jordan
Draymond Green
Andre Drummond
DeMarcus Cousins
Julius Randle
J.J. Redick

I’m not a gambling man, but I am betting that the Lakers land at least one of these guys over the next two years. They have the cap space, talent, and destination appeal to do it.

Not impressed by the names “Redick,” “Middleton,” “Harris, “Randle,” or “Dragic?” Not including Kevin Love, LeBron just took a team of scrubs to the NBA Finals, and lost two of those games in the finals minutes or overtime. The King doesn’t need much, just a handful of trusty knights who won’t miss free throws or mismanage the clock.

The NBA landscape changes faster than ever now, and it is a zero-sum game. In other words, if a team loses a star player, that means another team is gaining a star player.

And whether it is by trades or signings, the Lakers have as good a chance as any team of landing that star player…or *gulp*…players.