The Los Angeles Lakers could create almost $70 million in salary cap space this summer, positioning themselves to possibly sign two max players. It was achieved via a huge deadline day trade that sent two of their young stars, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the expiring contracts of Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus the Cavs’ 2018 first-rounder.
Clarkson and Nance were not only fan-favorites in L.A., but they were also considered as integral parts of head coach Luke Walton’s system. The duo’s energy, hustle, and do-it-all attitude coming off the bench have endeared them to the hearts of the Lakers fans and front office alike. However, Magic Johnson and company showed how serious they are in signing superstar free agents in the offseason by trading the beloved tandem.
According to SB Nation, getting LeBron James and Paul George has been the Lakers’ “pipe dream” since last season. The two superstars are expected to become the team’s top free agent targets in July and are the main reasons why Johnson wants to have as much cap flexibility as possible moving forward.
As it stands, the Lakers now have $46.9 million in cap space after the Clarkson-Nance trade. The team could increase it to as much as $70 million if they “renounce their rights to Julius Randle,” who is entering restricted free agency, and at the same time waiving and stretching Luol Deng’s contract over the next five years, the Los Angeles Times‘ Tania Ganguli said. With that much cap space, signing both James and George has become quite possible.
However, a new rumor has emerged, saying that the Lakers might pursue a “third max-level player” in the summer aside from James and George. Blasting News suggested that the Hollywood squad could form their own version of a Big Three by acquiring New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis.
The report noted that the Lakers could do this by trading the “rookie-scale contracts of (Brandon) Ingram, (Kyle) Kuzma, and (Josh) Hart to New Orleans in exchange for Davis.” In this scenario, the club is literally giving away its future for the possibility of winning a championship once again, although the fit between the three players is yet to be determined.
If the suggested picture takes place, then the Lakers will likely have a starting lineup of James, George, Davis, Tyler Ennis, and Lonzo Ball next season. The only problem with this is that the team had essentially gutted out their entire bench.
The report clarified, though, that acquiring Davis is “nothing more than a pipe dream” as well. In a Boston Herald interview last month, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said that they are “not thinking about trading” Davis now or anytime soon.