Beck’s Latest: Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Knicks, LeBron, Durant

In his latest article for Bleacher Report, Howard Beck looks ahead to an upcoming offseason that figures to feature a four-team, big-market battle for many of the NBA’s star free agents. The Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Nets aren’t the only four clubs that will have the cap space necessary to add one or two maximum-salary players, but they’re the clubs most frequently cited as top destinations for those stars.

While the Knicks and Lakers are popular choices to land marquee free agents, Beck asked 10 executives and scouts to evaluate and rank those four New York and Los Angeles teams based on basketball considerations( such as roster, coaching staff, front office, and ownership), and seven placed the Nets and Clips in the top two. Eight ranked the Knicks last.

As Beck explains, the Lakers and Knicks are viewed with skepticism because of doubts about their young prospects, a lack of faith in the Lakers’ management duo of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, and the poor reputation of Knicks owner James Dolan.

“Brooklyn and the Clippers have a decided advantage over the two marquee names because they’ve done far more in the last few years to position themselves to be sustainable than either New York or the Lakers,” one veteran GM told Beck.

Still, many Lakers and Knicks rivals wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see those clubs do well in free agency, given the history and “mystique” attached to the two franchises.

“If the Knicks and Lakers get the guys, it means mystique and market really will matter more [than which franchise is run the best],” one GM said. “That’s terrifying.”

Here’s more from Beck’s piece, which is worth checking out in full:

  • LeBron James tells Beck that this will be a “critical summer” for him and the Lakers, and he fully intends to help with recruiting stars to Los Angeles. “I will be as active as I need to be for this franchise to get better. That’s why I came here. I came here to win,” James said. “And obviously, we need to get better, as far as our personnel. We have an opportunity to get better. And there’s a lot of talent out there, and a lot of guys that can help our franchise. So I’ll be as active as I need to be for us to get better and go from there.”
  • One assistant GM is skeptical that any star wings or point guards will want to team with LeBron, suggesting that the team will have to focus on star bigs. Rivals also view the Lakers as behind the curve in areas such as analytics, sports science, and player development, according to Beck. Still, the “glamorous sheen” attached to the franchise can’t be overlooked. “The Lakers can show up with a dead body in the room and not get arrested,” a rival official said. “It’s just the nature of the business we are in that they are perceived in this holy-grail-type situation.”
  • According to Beck, rival executives around the NBA are nearly uniform in their belief that Kevin Durant will end up with the Knicks this summer. While no one knows for sure yet, “virtually everyone believes he’s leaving the Warriors,” Beck writes.
  • Beck adds that it’s also “considered a given in NBA circles” that Durant and Kawhi Leonard won’t seriously consider the Lakers.
  • Despite a widespread belief that the Knicks will land Durant, people around the NBA have far more praise for their cross-town rivals, Beck writes. “I think they’ve turned around the Brooklyn era,” a scout said of the Nets. “They’re one or two steps ahead of the Knicks.” Another executive offered the following assessment: “Who would want to go play with the Knicks? Who are your teammates? [Kevin] Knox isn’t even that good.”
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