The departure of Brook Lopez and Julius Randle in the recent free agency gave the Los Angeles Lakers a huge hole to fill at center. Though they still have JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac, and Moe Wagner to play at 5, none of those players have proven their capability to be a starter. After signing LeBron James, the Lakers are in a win-now mode, and President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka should do everything they can to surround “King James” with quality players.
According to Matt John of Basketball Insiders, the Lakers could hit two birds in one stone by exploring a trade deal centered on Luol Deng. John suggested that the Lakers may consider trading Deng and the remaining two years and $36.8 million on his contract for a “horribly overpaid center.”
“Trading him would be tough, but it is doable now that Deng has only two years left on his deal. If they play their cards right, the Lakers can trade Deng for a big who could at least be an upgrade over what they have now. They can do this in two different ways. The first option for the Lakers would be to trade their horribly overpaid wing for a horribly overpaid center. They wouldn’t get out of Deng’s contract, but at least they’d be overpaying for someone who fills a need, which Deng does not.”
— theScore (@theScore) August 2, 2018
Basketball Insiders mentioned six “overpaid centers” the Lakers could target in a potential Luol Deng trade. These include Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo, John Henson, Robin Lopez, Nikola Vucevic, and Dewayne Dedmon. All of those players undeniably have the capability to address the Lakers’ weakness at 5, but as of now, it remains questionable if they will entertain the idea of trading Deng for another lucrative deal.
The Lakers purposely filled their roster with one-year contracts in order to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019. The 2019 NBA free agency will be loaded with several superstars like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeAndre Jordan. Even if the Lakers fail to get rid of Luol Deng, they could stretch his contract to create enough salary cap space for a maximum free agent.
If the Lakers really see the center position as their main weakness, they could easily bring back Brook Lopez, who only signed a one-year veteran minimum deal with the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency. As of now, the Lakers look confident with the current talents they have. Only their performance in the 2018-19 NBA season can prove if they made the right moves this offseason or not.