The Los Angeles Lakers need a superstar, and Indiana Pacers forward Paul George would appear to be their target. It’s no secret that the club is hoping to bring George back to Southern California, but exactly how they go about doing that has been up for debate.
It’s a tricky situation because George is headed for free agency next summer, so dealing away assets for him now would risk him walking away after just one year, which would be devastating to the franchise.
Trading a young player who acted as the silver lining for a losing season, like D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, or this year’s second overall pick, would be difficult. Instead, it appears the Lakers prefer to go after George next summer when he is a free agent, which would allow them to keep all of their assets intact. One issue, as noted by Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, is that Los Angeles needs to find a way to make their team enticing enough to lure George in next summer:
One NBA executive told Bleacher Report that the current task for the Lakers in their pursuit of George is to acquire another player—the type of player who would make defecting more desirable for George. Perhaps the answer is in the draft and player development, but the Lakers may need to accelerate the process by bringing in additional help through free agency and trades. And time is of the essence.
Of course, an improvement from the team’s young players could also be the answer to the problem. Should any of them make the leap next season and play like future stars, that would instantly make Los Angeles a more desirable landing spot.
In the absence of a meteoric rise from one of the team’s youngsters, they may need to make some kind of splash via trade or free agency for a win-now piece that can give them a boost.
Recent rumors suggest that they may be willing to part with guard Jordan Clarkson, though it’s unknown what they could get in return.
Making things even more difficult, the Lakers actually have to clear some salary off of their books in order to give George a max offer next summer, which means they must find a way to both improve the team and free cap space at the same time. It’s certainly a challenging task; one that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will have to navigate carefully.