With the Los Angeles Lakers in the homestretch of what has been a disappointing first season in the team’s LeBron James era, the expectation is that the organization will focus on signing another top-tier free agent this summer, while also possibly resuming last month’s failed trade talks for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. However, a new report suggests that the Lakers, despite their marketability and storied past, won’t be a preferred destination for the members of the talent-packed free agent class of 2019.
On Wednesday, Bill Oram of the subscriber-only sports publication The Athletic focused on the things the Lakers need to do to “get back on track” after a season that is all but guaranteed to end with the team missing the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. However, those who are hoping for a splashy free agent signing to give the Lakers a second superstar to play alongside James might have to temper their expectations, as suggested by USA Today’s Lonzo Wire, which quoted some key points from Oram’s report.
“The Lakers need to project stability going into yet another critical offseason if they hope to attract a second superstar to pair with James. After Paul George ignored the Lakers last summer, most league insiders believe the biggest names in this year’s loaded class of free agents will follow his lead.”
Oram was referring to George’s decision last summer to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder despite the widely-held assumption that he would be signing with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, as reported last year by ESPN. With George again teaming with Russell Westbrook as the Thunder’s top two players, Oklahoma City has compiled a 42-30 record so far, putting them at a tie for No. 6 with the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference.
The Lakers, meanwhile, dropped to 31-40 following their most recent loss to the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
The Lakers catastrophic season presents an opportunity for Jeanie Buss to become a more hands-on owner. https://t.co/xi29lFmv8R— Bill Oram (@billoram) March 21, 2019
According to Lonzo Wire, Oram’s comments about the Lakers needing to “project stability” in order to attract top players such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, or Klay Thompson line up with most previous reports about these players’ supposed free agency plans. Both Durant and Irving have mostly been linked to the New York Knicks, while Los Angeles native Leonard is reportedly eyeing the Clippers, but not the Lakers in the event he decides to play for a hometown team. Thompson, on the other hand, is expected to stay with the Golden State Warriors and sign a max contract if Durant decides to play elsewhere next season.
At this point, there could be some talented free agents available to the Lakers in the event they aren’t able to land any of the aforementioned players, as Lonzo Wire suggested that Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Khris Middleton could all warrant max contracts from the Lakers. However, the USA Today blog also opined that unless something changes before the start of this year’s free agency season, the Lakers will only have a slim chance of signing a “bona fide superstar” in the summer.