The Los Angeles Lakers became the biggest winner of the 2018 NBA offseason when they succeeded to acquire the best basketball player in the planet, LeBron James, in free agency. Unfortunately, they failed to surround him with another superstar that can help him bring the Purple and Gold back to the NBA Finals. Instead of bringing another superstar, the Lakers signed four players, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley, whose fit with LeBron remains a big question mark.
However, according to Dan Favale of Bleacher Report, every move Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka made this offseason are all part of a “larger plan.” Giving Rondo, Stephenson, McGee, and Beasley one-year contracts will give the Lakers the salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019 where LeBron James is expected to recruit his “fellow megahumans.”
“These moves are, apparently, all part of a larger plan. Though they are directionless in the interim, a series of one-year deals preserve the Lakers’ long-term flexibility. Stretching Luol Deng’s contract gives them a clear path to more than $35 million in space ahead of 2019 free agency, by which time James will have been putting down roots and recruiting fellow megahumans for an entire year.”
The recent acquisition of LeBron James is expected to make the Purple and Gold a more attractive destination for free agents in 2019. Several NBA superstars are expected to enter the free agency market next summer. These include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, DeAndre Jordan, and DeMarcus Cousins.
With the emergence of numerous “Super Teams,” the Lakers obviously need at least one superstar who can play alongside LeBron James. The Lakers may have a promising young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma, but all of them don’t have a championship experience and are yet to play in the NBA Playoffs.
In the past months, Kawhi Leonard emerged as the Lakers’ top free agent target in the summer of 2019. The Lakers decided not to engage in trade negotiation with the San Antonio Spurs, believing they could acquire Leonard next offseason as an unrestricted free agent. After being traded to the Toronto Raptors, the All-Star forward said he has no interest in playing and staying in Canada, heating up the speculations that he is heading to Los Angeles after the 2018-19 NBA season.
Lots of things can happen between now and the 2019 NBA offseason. As Favale noted, the 2019 free agency will determine if LeBron James is a free-agent magnet or a superstar repellent.