Since the offseason, there is a growing optimism in Los Angeles that the Lakers are finally on their way to return to title contention. The arrival of Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka made most people believe the purple and gold will once again become an attractive destination for superstar free agents. The NBA superstars frequently linked to the Lakers are LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both All-Star forwards have a player option on their contract that will enable them to become unrestricted free agents next summer. After the trade that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cavaliers, the Lakers created enough salary cap space to offer James and George maximum contracts, provided that they renounce their rights on all their incoming free agents. However, neither superstar has given any official statements regarding their decision this offseason.
As of now, LeBron James and Paul George are focused on the ongoing 2017-18 NBA season. Despite going through ups and downs, the Cavaliers and the Thunder are considered huge threats in their respective conferences. Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to improve their game in order to make a good impression on their target free agents. Though James and George are expected to sign with a team who’s capable of defeating other powerhouse teams in the league, Sam Amick of USA Today believes their plan to join the Lakers is already in place.
“Still, despite all this evidence that both players will value winning and title contention above all else, suspicion persists among fans and some media members that this Lakers plan is already in place.”
Recalling when the Lakers made the deal with the Cavaliers, Magic Johnson expressed an unwavering confidence that they will be able to sign two max-level free agents.
“Wouldn’t have made the [trade] if I wasn’t confident,” said Johnson of the likelihood the Lakers will manage to sign two superstar free agents, via Lakers Nation. “We have got to take the next step.”
However, acting the way Johnson did is natural for NBA executives. But, it is not an assurance that they can really get whoever they want when free agency hits. Last offseason, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak also made people believe they can bring superstars to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they were unable to sign their target free agents like Carmelo Anthony, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevin Durant.
In the recent All-Star game, fans were given the opportunity to see LeBron James and Paul George playing as teammates in Los Angeles. Both superstars showed an impressive performance where James dropped 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists while George finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. On last Saturday’s media day, Lakers fans welcomed George with a “We want Paul” chant. Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook came onto the scene and told them that George isn’t going anywhere. The crowd went silent when Westbrook made the statement.
As of now, it’s too early to predict if LeBron James and Paul George will really team up in Los Angeles next summer. Expect more rumors to surface until both superstars ink a new contract in the offseason.