Top 2019 Free Agents Prefer Clippers To Lakers Because No One Wants To Be LeBron’s ‘Caddy,’ NBA Exec Claims

LeBron James shows some exertion on the court.
Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

Numerous rumors have pointed to one player or another from next summer’s free agency class joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2019 offseason. However, a new report suggests that the team’s inter-city rivals, the Clippers, might be far more attractive for one reason in specific — a better chance to be the top guy, as opposed to being the second option behind LeBron James.

In an in-depth report on the Los Angeles Clippers, Howard Beck of the Bleacher Report examined how the team has evolved under the ownership of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer — going from a team that couldn’t, and didn’t, attract top-tier players to one that “[demands] your attention and respect.” Beck discussed how the Clippers are forging an identity as a “blue-collar,” defense-oriented alternative to the splashier, more glamorous Lakers, and how they could have a chance at signing two superstar free agents to maximum contracts in the summer of 2019.

As noted by Beck, next summer’s free agency class is expected to include the likes of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and other tried-and-tested superstars. While Beck acknowledged that there’s a chance that none of those potential free agents will end up signing with the Clippers for one reason or another, he quoted an unnamed “rival executive,” who doesn’t just believe the Clippers are the best destination for would-be free agents, but also thinks that these players wouldn’t be interested in signing with the Lakers because of LeBron James’ presence.

“None of the available free agents want to be LeBron’s caddy. And they can become the greatest player in the history of a franchise in an unbelievable market with the wealthiest owner in the league. Why would that not thrill you?”

The above claims mesh with previous rumors which suggested that Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, in particular, is not considering the Lakers as his first option once he becomes a free agent next summer. As recapped by NBC Sports, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said in September that Leonard isn’t interested in playing in James’ shadow, and might consider the Clippers as his first option in the summer of 2019 — followed by the Raptors, then the Lakers.

Not long after that report, Shelburne’s ESPN colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski, said that the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler — who has long been seeking a trade — had once considered joining the Lakers. Butler allegedly no longer sees them as an “appealing” destination due to James’ arrival via free agency earlier this year, per 24/7 Sports.

Despite the Los Angeles Lakers’ apparent lack of appeal to high-profile players ahead of next year’s free agency period, Lakers Nation opined that there could still be a number of available star players who wouldn’t mind playing second fiddle to LeBron James. The publication mentioned James’ former Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — and former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — as examples of onetime top offensive options who learned to adjust to their secondary or tertiary roles while playing alongside the four-time NBA MVP.