With their 2017-18 NBA season in the books, the Los Angeles Lakers can now look ahead to what promises to be a busy summer. First up, they will have to navigate the NBA Draft, where they hold the 25th and 44th picks.
After that, all eyes will shift to free agency, which begins on July 1. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka made a series of difficult moves in order to free up cap space, including trading away D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr.
Thanks to these transactions, the Lakers will have more cap space available than any team in the league and will be expected to go after star players like LeBron James and Paul George.
With that, comes a needed presentation to convince either of those two, or other free agents, to sign with the Lakers. “I haven’t thought about the pitch yet,” head coach Luke Walton said at his exit interview.
“But I can just speak for what I know right now, and that’s we’re going to play fast again next year. We finished, I think third in pace this year, which we were No. 1 for most of the season. We’ve got a young core of guys that loves to play, they love to get out and run, and they love to compete. They love to work. I guess that’s a pretty good pitch right there, but it’s just the truth about the young core that we have.
“It’s a great group that I’m really excited about. As far as the free agent part of it, we’ll get to that later in the summer. I’m really, really excited about the future and what this group has already started to make their identity and where we’re going to continue to go.”
Walton’s assertion that the team will play fast again is no surprise. Johnson asked that the Lakers improve defensively and run more, setting a much-needed identity for the franchise. While shooting was an issue, the Lakers did manage to finish the season 12th in defensive rating and third in pace.
Whether the Lakers are able to sign an elite free agent or not, the foundation has been set for the team to be built upon. They have an identity in place and a growing reputation as a team with a strong work ethic. Whether it’s this summer or next, that combination should help bring in free agent talent.
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