The Lakers are recalibrating their free agency focus, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who report that the L.A. front office is “looking through a longer lens” as it explores ways to upgrade the roster. Although the Lakers would still like to make a big splash in free agency, they may now be prioritizing the 2019 class over this summer’s group, per Shelburne and Wojnarowski.
Ever since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka assumed control of personnel decisions in Los Angeles, the team’s desire to pursue free agents in 2018 has been no secret. During the 2017 offseason, the Lakers limited themselves to one-year deals for free agents so as not to cut into their potential cap room for the 2018/19 season.
However, as Shelburne and Wojnarowski detail, there’s still no guarantee that the Lakers will have enough cap space for two maximum-salary free agents this summer, and even if they do, no star players are viewed as locks to head west. The Pelicans are considered the frontrunners for DeMarcus Cousins, who is sidelined with an Achilles injury, while Paul George has hinted recently that he’s leaning toward sticking with the Thunder. And according to Shelburne and Woj, LeBron James is believed to be hesitant about the idea of joining the Lakers without another established star joining him.
The Lakers haven’t ruled out the possibility of landing a big-name player this July, but shifting their focus to the summer of 2019 would reduce the urgency to clear cap room right away. It would also give L.A.’s young prospects more time to develop into the type of players that would attract veteran stars. The 2019 free agent class includes several intriguing potential targets, with Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler among the players expected to be up for new contracts.
While the Lakers could still end up moving players like Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle this week in an effort to create more flexibility for July 2018, one league source suggested to Shelburne and Wojnarowski that the odds of a meaningful deal are “50-50 at best.” The Lakers have received some offers for Clarkson and Randle, but none of those offers would create significant cap space going forward and give them the sort of draft picks they’re seeking, sources tell ESPN.