Since acquiring LeBron James in the recent free agency, Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka made it clear that they are not done yet in upgrading their roster. The Lakers purposely filled their roster with one-year contracts to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019. The 2019 NBA free agency will be featuring several NBA superstars including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeAndre Jordan.
Aside from targeting superstars in the free agency market, the Lakers also have a plethora of trade assets to engage in a blockbuster deal with other NBA teams. This summer, the Lakers were linked to two NBA superstars who had disputes with their teams – Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Like Leonard, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report revealed that Butler also had an interest in joining the Purple and Gold. However, the Lakers passed on trading for both superstars.
“Earlier in the summer, Butler had interest in joining the Lakers, but Los Angeles didn’t have the contracts available to match salaries for a swap. Butler was on L.A.’s list but lower than the likes of Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard. Executives Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Rob Pelinka could have made stronger plays for Butler or Leonard, whom the San Antonio Spurs traded to the Toronto Raptors, or previously Paul George, whom the Indiana Pacers dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But the Lakers held on firmly to prospects Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.”
It’s easy to understand why the Lakers decided not to trade for either Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. The Lakers first wanted to see how their young core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball would perform alongside the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James. Also, the Lakers might be confident that they could acquire one of those superstars without giving up valuable assets when they become unrestricted free agents next summer.
Unfortunately, it seems like the Lakers made the same mistake they did when they let the Indiana Pacers trade Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As of now, Kawhi Leonard looks happy in Toronto, and there is a growing optimism that he will re-sign with the Raptors once free agency hits next July. Meanwhile, after the Minnesota Timberwolves granted his trade request, Jimmy Butler is fully expected to sign a long-term contract with the Philadelphia 76ers next summer, according to a Twitter post by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.