The Los Angeles Lakers are embarking on a massively important offseason as they attempt to rebuild their team, but it appears that their plans may not include free agency. There are typically three ways that teams are built with the draft, trades, and free agency all playing a role in the eventual success or failure of a team. Teams emphasize each area differently depending on their situation and a rebuilding team like the Lakers has to carefully weigh all of their options and pursue the correct path.
Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers spent a large chunk of their painfully preserved cap space on Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, moves they almost certainly regret now, and it appears that Magic Johnson is determined to not make the same mistakes as his predecessor. He appeared at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and in an interview with ESPN2, he stated his desire to horde cap space for the free-agent class of 2018 rather than 2017:
“We have the 28th pick. Always trades can be made. We do have cap space as well, so we can sign a free agent if we wanted to. But I’m really looking to keep the cap space we have and really try to play into next year’s free agent class and not really this free agent class.”
This may be disappointing to fans who were hoping to see the Lakers make a big splash in free agency this summer, but landing a top-flight free agent was always going to be difficult thanks to their young roster. They will hope to keep their 2017 first round pick in Tuesday’s draft lottery, and with that and trade options, Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka will attempt to put together next year’s team it seems.
If the Lakers do hang onto their cap space in order to chase stars in 2018 that could include Indiana’s Paul George, who will likely be on the trade market this summer. However if Los Angeles feels confident in their ability to sign him as a free agent they would be better off going that route and keeping all of their trade assets. New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins is also slated to hit free agency in 2018, as is Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
Assuming Johnson isn’t attempting to fool competitors, we could see the Lakers put together another young team next season in preparation for some huge moves in 2018.