Multiple NBA rumors are pointing out that LeBron James will be joining the Los Angeles Lakers once he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018. However, everyone knows that acquiring the best player on the planet, alone, will not guarantee that the purple and gold can win a championship, especially with the emergence of super teams. The latest rumors suggest that the Lakers could be targeting DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan as James' running mate.
The departure of LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time is something that most people are expecting in the summer of 2018. Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report revealed that "league executives not only expect James to leave [the Cleveland Cavaliers] but have circled his destination—the Los Angeles Lakers."
Since sitting as the Lakers president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson vowed to bring the team back to their glory days. Aside from James, the Lakers are also keeping an eye on other superstars who will be available in the free agency market next summer. If the Lakers will consider pairing a big man with LeBron, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report believes DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers will be on LA's radar.
"The Lakers could pursue either All-Star center with Cousins a free agent and Jordan likely opting out of his final year at $24.1 million. Cousins will be eligible to sign for roughly $30.6 million, while Jordan's max will be about $35.7 million," Pincus reported.
DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan are two of the best centers in the league who offer different skill sets. Cousins is an offensive weapon and a proven floor spacer. He has a career-average of 21.2 points and 10.8 rebounds on 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 33.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Jordan is an incredible reinforcement on the defensive end, especially in protecting the rim. Though he's not an accurate perimeter shooter like Cousins, Jordan's considered as one of the best screen-and-roll threats. Both big men will undeniably be a good addition to the Lakers if LeBron James really heads to Los Angeles next summer.
However, as Pincus noted, re-signing Brook Lopez will also be an option for the Lakers. Lopez, who LA acquired on the draft night together with Kyle Kuzma, is entering the final year of his contract. The Lakers could sign him up to $35.7 million but would prevent them from signing their second superstar.
The best scenario for the Lakers is acquiring two maximum salaried players and re-signing Lopez using the team's room exception. However, signing Lopez means that the Lakers will remove DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan from their list of free agent targets in 2018. So far, the Lakers are focused on the upcoming 2017-18 NBA season.
In an appearance on ESPN's First Take(h/t Lakers Nation), Johnson explained what he wants to see from the Lakers next season.
"Number one is pace of play. We have to be a running basketball team. If we're able to run with Lonzo Ball at the point guard it's going to be beautiful basketball to watch," Johnson said.
"Then we have to improve on our defense because we were near the bottom of the league on defense. That's where (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) I think is really going to help us and I think also Brook Lopez will help us as well. Then, I want to see Jordan Clarkson go to another level. I want to see Julius Randle go to another level. They both have to go to another level."Johnson believes their performance next season will play a major role in their plan to recruit superstars in the 2018 free agency. Young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle are expected to make a good expression next season. The Lakers will also need to make huge moves before the February trade deadline to have enough salary cap space to sign two superstars next summer.
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