At first I was excited at the thought of the Lakers signing two superstars next offseason, but my view has changed now that Demarcus Cousins got hurt. I envisioned a starting lineup of Lonzo Ball, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, & Demarcus Cousins. But now that Cousins tore his achilles, I want nothing to do with him (very tough injury to come back from, remember what happened to Kobe?). With that said, here's what I hope the Lakers do...
1. Don't Trade Clarkson or Randle
The main purpose of trading them is to free up enough cap space to sign TWO max free agents. At this point I think we should only sign one. Clarkson has the potential to be a great 6th man year in and year out. We all know he can score with the best of them, and his facilitating and defense is only getting better. A lot of people were down on Randle, but look what he's done recently. He's been a beast! I think people forget that he missed his whole rookie season after being drafted 7th overall, so this is really only his 3rd year playing in the league. He may be the longest tenured Laker on this team, but he's still only 23. He's not even in his prime yet which is exciting to me.
2. Sign Paul George as a Free Agent. Don't Re-Sign KCP or Brook Lopez
This is nothing against KCP or Brook Lopez, they are just gonna cost too much and we have several young pieces to start in their place without it being considered a huge downgrade. Josh Hart is a great defender and appears to be a solid 3pt shooter who plays smart. He may not be as good as KCP yet, but I think he could be in a few years. At Center I would like our young prospects of Zubac and Thomas Bryant to get a shot unless Lopez agrees to a short term contract. We also have Randle and Larry Nance who can play Center in our small ball lineup.
As far as Paul George, he is a perfect fit with this team. He's a young superstar who is one of the BEST two-way players in the league, and he's from LA, and he's made it no secret that he wants to come to LA. Enough Said.
3. Eat Up The Luol Deng Contract
Theres rumors that the Lakers could use the stretch provision to reduce his salary cap hit from 18 million to 7 million, but the math doesn't add up to me. We'd be paying 7 million a year for 5 years to someone who doesn't play? No thanks, let's just bite the bullet for the next 2 seasons and then finally rid ourselves of Jim Buss's stupidity. Nobody is willing to trade for him unless we give up a valuable young asset, and I'm not ready to do that.
These are exciting times for me as a Laker fan. We've won 8 of 10 and our young core is learning how to win games finally. I don't know if anyone noticed, but we emulated some of the Warriors strategy in building this team. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all played 3 or 4 years in college and look how that turned out? Even before Durant they got themselves a chip. This year we drafted Kyle Kuzma (3 years at Utah), Josh Hart (4 years at Villanova), Thomas Bryant (2 years at Indiana) and Lonzo Ball obviously played only 1 year at UCLA. And we nabbed Luke Walton who was their assistant coach. It took Steph 3 seasons to make the playoffs, and 5 seasons to win the Finals (4 for Klay, 3 for Draymond).
If we sign only Paul George, were not gonna be championship contenders. I think we will be anywhere from the 5-8 seed in the West, but our young core will continue to get better and who knows, maybe we could have multiple homegrown stars from the bunch. If we sign 2 max free agents next offseason, I think our young talent won't get the opportunity to become stars. Plus, the Warriors aren't going anywhere the next few seasons anyway. They don't have any aging players, no troubles in the locker room, and they have a couple more years until their salary cap situation will give them any issues. In a couple of years, our young core will have developed, built team chemistry, and matured physically and mentally. By then, the Warriors will no longer be unbeatable, Luol Deng's contract will be done, and we could potentially sign a big free agent that offseason to take us from playoff team to championship team. Sounds like a good timeline to me!
But for next season, I hope this is our roster:
Starters: Lonzo Ball, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Thomas Bryant
Bench: Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance, Ivica Zubac
Small Ball: Lonzo Ball, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle