NBA Rumors: Jimmy Butler ‘Always Wanted To Play’ For Los Angeles Lakers, Per ESPN’s Nick Friedell

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After the successful acquisition of All-Star center Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Los Angeles Lakers have shifted their focus on chasing another superstar in the 2019 NBA free agency. According to ESPN, the Lakers managed to open up enough salary cap space to sign a max free agent after agreeing to trade Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizards as part of the restructured deal with the Pelicans centered on Davis.

In the past months, several NBA superstars have been linked to the Lakers, including Jimmy Butler of the Philadelphia 76ers. When they acquired him in a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier in the 2018-19 NBA season, the Sixers expressed strong confidence that they would be able to convince Butler to re-sign in the 2019 NBA free agency. However, since opting out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent, rumors are heating up that Butler will be leaving the Sixers to chase his first NBA championship title somewhere else.

In an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump, Nick Friedell revealed that Jimmy Butler “always wanted to play” for the Purple and Gold.

“Jimmy has always wanted to play for the Lakers, in Los Angeles,” Friedell said, as quoted by Bleacher Report. “If he, in his mind, can go to a place where he knows, ‘I’m not the man, but I can help try to win a title…'”

Jimmy Butler will undeniably be an incredible addition to the Lakers, giving them another reliable scoring option behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Aside from having another offensive weapon, the Lakers could also task Butler to guard the opposing team’s best player. In 55 games he played with the Sixers last season, the 29-year-old shooting guard averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.8 steals on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 33.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

However, though the Lakers have enough salary cap space to offer Jimmy Butler a max contract, it remains unknown if he will be willing to accept a supporting role. If the Lakers are really serious about acquiring him this summer, Friedell believes LeBron James should personally recruit Butler to Los Angeles.

“LeBron’s gonna have to make that call. We talk about free agency and recruiting: If LeBron James wants Jimmy Butler, and Philly is not comfortable offering him that fifth year and all the max money—if LeBron calls and says ‘Jimmy, I need you to win a title, you’ll be in L.A. and you’ll get all the trappings of being a star in this place,’ I think that’s the guy to call.”

Aside from Jimmy Butler, other potential targets for the Lakers in the 2019 NBA free agency include Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors, Kemba Walker Charlotte Hornets, and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.