L.A. Lakers trade rumors have been pretty intriguing this NBA season, but some news that came out late Monday evening (Feb. 13) might be of particular interest to fans of the franchise. Amid all the NBA trade rumors suggesting the Lakers could make deals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, or even the L.A. Clippers, Magic Johnson threw another grenade on the situation.
A report by the Los Angeles Times states that Johnson, who now serves as an advisor to owner Jeanie Buss, has a timeline with which to rebuild the franchise. An inherent problem, though, is that his timeline conflicts with one that executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss already set for the team. This could create a lot of chaos during the next NBA season.
“It’s going to take three to five years to get them back rolling again. It’s different than when I played. In today’s NBA, you have to really develop your own players because free-agent movement isn’t like it used to be. You have to make sure you hit a home run when you draft and try to keep the players you have on your roster.”
Those quotes from Magic Johnson are contradictory to the guarantee that Jim Buss recently made. Buss stated that if the Lakers have failed to make a deep playoff run by the 2017-18 NBA season, that he will resign from his position. For those fans keeping score at home, that’s the upcoming NBA season, meaning it would require a huge improvement from how the current roster has been progressing.
Entering play on Tuesday (Feb. 14), the L.A. Lakers are 14th place in the Western Conference, just two games ahead of the lowly Phoenix Suns. At 19-37 this year, the Lakers aren’t where the front office expected the team to be at this point. The younger players are taking longer to develop than anticipated and the recent free agent signings simply have not fulfilled on the salaries they are getting paid. It has the team looking toward the 2017 NBA Draft, rather than working for a spot in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
The Lakers are paying out just over $94 million in salaries this season, with Luol Deng ($18 million), Timofey Mozgov ($16 million), and Jordan Clarkson ($12.5 million) as the most expensive players on the roster. All three players are signed through the 2019-20 NBA season, meaning their salaries are completely entrenched at this point. The hope was that players like D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. would have taken over key roles on a nightly basis. That simply has not happened yet.
There are certainly moves that the team could make before the NBA trade deadline, which is why there are still so many L.A. Lakers trade rumors still floating around the league. Jose Calderon would be the easiest player to move, as the veteran point guard is in the final year of his current contract. He will soon head into free agency, with the front office unlikely to offer him a new contract. The Lakers would also like to part ways with Nick Young and Lou Williams, who are both under contract next season as well. Dealing them could free up nearly $13 million.
So what happens next with the franchise? It might be time for the team to look elsewhere when it comes to who should be in charge of player acquisitions. Having new blood like Magic Johnson involved with the franchise could certainly add a face to free agent negotiations. It might also give the fan base hope that the team is ready to turn a corner. To take that new direction, it could mean that the offseason will hold a lot of new L.A. Lakers trade rumors, especially if the team is really looking at restructuring what has been a dysfunctional and inconsistent roster.
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