Despite all the fanfare and expectations that followed LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018, the team struggled mightily at several points in the 2018-19 season, ultimately finishing with a 37-45 record and missing the playoffs for a sixth straight year. This troubled season included an unsuccessful attempt to trade for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis, and while it’s widely expected that the Lakers will resume trade negotiations this summer, a new rumor suggests that the team may instead focus mainly on signing free agents to retool the roster.
As quoted by Silver Screen and Roll, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin said on a recent appearance on ESPN 710 AM’s The Sedano Show that the Lakers have been informing their candidates for the vacant head coaching position that they are planning to bolster the talent on their roster by signing top free agents, as opposed to acquiring star players via trade.
“I’ve heard that some of the discussion that the coaching candidates have had with Lakers management has been (directed) more so towards their plans for free agency this summer versus their plans to change their roster via trade,” McMenamin reportedly said.
“And so, if they’re not going to go for a roster-shaping trade this year and it’s gotta be through free agency… you either show up or you don’t.”
Breaking down McMenamin’s comments, Silver Screen and Roll posited that the Lakers could be “confident” that they could sign a top-tier free agent like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, or Kemba Walker to play alongside LeBron James. The outlet added that it’s also possible that the Lakers have “received word” that the Pelicans absolutely have no intention of trading Anthony Davis to Los Angeles, despite the All-NBA forward/center’s reported desire to play for the Lakers.
Given that Durant, Irving, Leonard, and Thompson have mainly been linked to other teams ahead of their free agency eligibility, Silver Screen and Roll warned that it’s very important for the Lakers to make good use of their salary cap space and “strike gold” in free agency during the 2019 offseason. Otherwise, the outlet added, this could result in James asking to be traded to a “legitimate” championship contender if they continue to struggle.
While Silver Screen and Roll mentioned that failing to improve the roster substantially this summer could result in James losing his trust in the Lakers, McMenamin hinted in his ESPN 710 AM appearance that the four-time MVP may have already lost some of that trust. According to USA Today‘s LeBron Wire, the events of the past few weeks, which notably included Magic Johnson’s resignation as president of basketball operations, have “damaged” James’ trust in the Lakers, thus making it even more important for the organization to make the right personnel moves as they prepare for the 2019-20 NBA season.