Since the last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers have been searching for a trade partner who is willing to absorb veteran small forward Luol Deng and the remaining two years and $36.8 million deal on his contract. Deng has been a huge disappointment since he joined the Lakers in 2016 free agency. With the Lakers’ goal to create salary cap space for a max free agent next summer, moving Deng remains as their top priority.
As most people think, the Lakers will be needing to give up valuable assets in order to dump Luol Deng. In an appearance on Lakers Nation podcast, Keith Smith of RealGM revealed that opposing teams are demanding one of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, or Kyle Kuzma, and a future first-round pick from the Lakers in the potential deal involving Deng.
“I asked them, ‘Well what were you asking for?’ and they said, ‘Well we wanted one of Ingram, Ball, Hart, at a minimum Kuzma, and we wanted another first-round pick, or give us two kids and no pick, or two first-round picks.’ But the two first-round picks, that was a little less desirable for those teams because those are going to be late-20s picks, just any team with LeBron that’s where you’re gonna be. So it really turned into, you’re giving up at least one of the kids plus a first-round pick or two of the kids and that was just to get off Deng’s money.”
Despite their desire to get rid of Luol Deng’s lucrative deal, it is highly unlikely that Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka will sacrifice the likes of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma. All young players have shown their potential to become superstars last season. As of now, the Lakers view them as part of their long-term plan, which is proven by their decision not to give up one of them to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs.
The Lakers didn’t re-sign some of their own free agents like Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, and Isaiah Thomas in order to see what their young players can do when they start playing alongside LeBron James next season. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, one Lakers executive revealed that they are planning to create their own version of the Golden State Warriors’ “Death Lineup” featuring James, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma.
Even without trading Luol Deng, the Lakers could still create $35 million in salary cap space by stretching the veteran small forward’s contract. The 2019 free agency will be loaded with NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, DeAndre Jordan, and DeMarcus Cousins. Pairing at least one of those superstars with LeBron James will undeniably strengthen the Lakers’ chance of returning to title contention.