Isaiah Thomas will become a free agent this summer, and it remains to be seen whether or not he will stay with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have big ambitions in the offseason, as they are expected to target LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Thomas has been showing flashes of brilliance over the past several weeks, earning praises from his teammates and Lakers head coach Luke Walton. However, those praises cannot change the fact that Thomas will not be a top priority for the Lakers this summer. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Thomas’ future in Los Angeles would depend on the contract duration that he will demand and James’ decision in free agency.
The two-time All-Star, who averaged 15.9 points and 5.3 assists in his first 15 games as a Laker, has also made it clear that he does not want to come off the bench. The Lakers already have their point guard of the future in Lonzo Ball, but his recent play could convince Walton to start Thomas along with their rookie playmaker.
But even if the Lakers find a way to start Thomas alongside Ball, he will still have no control over his Los Angeles future this summer. If James decides to sign with the Lakers, Los Angeles will definitely let Thomas go, according to Pincus. James and Thomas did not have a good relationship during their brief time together in Cleveland.
If James decides to go elsewhere, Thomas could be back in Los Angeles even if they successfully convince George to make a homecoming. However, it would still depend on the contract duration that he will ask for from the Lakers this offseason.
If they fail to land the big-name free agents this summer, the Lakers are expected to shift their focus on 2019 free agency. Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs might become available next year.
In order to get a shot at the top 2019 free agents, the Lakers need to keep their cap flexibility. The Lakers will likely be open to retaining Thomas. But if the 29-year-old point guard asks for a long-term deal, Los Angeles will likely let him walk away to keep their chances of landing a superstar or two next year.
Los Angeles will have a lot of decisions to make this summer. Julius Randle will also be a free agent, and the 23-year-old has also given the Lakers a lot of reasons to invest in him. The former Kentucky standout is averaging 23.3 points and 9.7 rebounds this month. The Lakers will likely prioritize keeping him over Thomas in the event they are forced to choose between the two stars to maintain their spending power for 2019 free agents.