If the Lakers are going to build the NBA’s next superteam, they shouldn’t expect much help from their competitors, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
L.A., which hopes to have enough cap room to offer two max deals and is the preferred destination for Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, ran into some resistance at last night’s draft. GM Rob Pelinka was hoping to acquire a pick early in the second round, but he couldn’t find another franchise that was willing to trade.
“So it’s not like teams are saying, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do a deal with the Lakers,’ but I do think when you have 16 banners, there’s going to be a natural envy from your competitors because you’re sitting at the top of the food chain, but that’s just life in general,” Pelinka said.
That follows a report on Thursday that the Lakers reached out to San Antonio last week about Leonard’s availability, but the Spurs “basically shut the door” on any trade talks. Leonard, who is unhappy with how the team handled his quad injury, will have the chance to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent next summer.
Leonard’s availability may affect how the Lakers plan their future, as Pelinka said the team will focus its resources on 2019 if it can’t attract its free agent targets this year. Those include Thunder forward Paul George, who has also talked about returning to L.A. to play for his hometown team, and Cavaliers star LeBron James.
“We do feel like the road is a flexible road for us; if July 1 happens with one or two superstar players, great,” Pelinka added. “If it doesn’t, we love this young core that we’re developing and we know 2019 could present some amazing opportunities as well. So really any road we go down we’re really confident in, but obviously for Lakers fans we want to be good, we want to be back in the playoffs where Lakers deserve to be and competing for a championship.”
Along with chasing their desired targets, the Lakers have a few free agents of their own to be concerned about. Julius Randle is in line for a huge raise, although he is restricted and L.A. can match any offer, and Isaiah Thomas, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Channing Frye are all unrestricted.
One move the Lakers won’t make is taking a chance on LiAngelo Ball, brother of point guard Lonzo Ball, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). LiAngelo has been informed that he will not be part of L.A.’s summer league team, with one source telling Shelburne, “obviously there’s more to it than basketball.” She takes that as a signal that the organization doesn’t want any deeper involvement with the Ball family and its patriarch, LaVar.