Since assuming front office roles, Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka have revealed their ambitious plan to make the Purple and Gold an attractive destination for superstars once again. In 2018 NBA free agency, they succeeded to acquire their first legitimate NBA superstar in the post-Kobe Bryant era after signing LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million contract.
However, that is just the start for the Lakers. After acquiring James, the Lakers purposely filled their roster with one-year contracts to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019. Weeks before the training camp starts, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka made another big move by reaching a buyout agreement with veteran small forward Luol Deng.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the $7.5 million Luol Deng left on the table enable the Lakers to have $38 million in salary cap space next offseason. Though it’s too early to talk about the 2019 NBA free agency, it seems like the Lakers already have top targets in their mind. These include Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors, Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors.
“Luol Deng agreed to a significant give-back of $7.5 million in his contract buyout with the Los Angeles Lakers, clearing $38 million in salary cap space for 2019 free agency, league sources told ESPN. The Lakers can now offer a free-agent star a maximum contract in July to partner with LeBron James. The Lakers are targeting the top players in a potentially starry 2019 marketplace, including Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.”
LeBron James, still squarely in the prime, has already secured a spot on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) August 31, 2018
After examining the stats, it becomes clear that he is also on pace to surpass Michael Jordan and establish himself as the G.O.A.T.
Numbers don't lie.https://t.co/RLlYRSpKwh
Since the 2018 NBA offseason started, Kawhi Leonard has been frequently linked with the Lakers. Leonard is an L.A. native and has publicly expressed his interest in playing for the Purple and Gold. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka decided not to trade for him this offseason, believing they could acquire him in the summer of 2019 without giving up valuable trade assets.
After his rumored frustration with the Timberwolves circulated, Jimmy Butler’s name also surfaced in various trade speculations this summer. His decision to decline the contract extension offered by the Timberwolves hints his potential departure next summer. According to a previous Inquisitr report, Butler is “open to the idea of moving on from the Timberwolves to play alongside James in Los Angeles.”
Meanwhile, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant proved to be longshots for the Lakers. As of now, it’s hard to imagine both superstars leaving the Warriors just to team up with LeBron in 2019. However, the Warriors’ current financial situation could give the Lakers an opportunity to steal either Thompson or Durant from Golden State next offseason.