Behind a series of trades and signings over recent seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers set themselves up to have enough salary cap space for two max contracts come 2018 NBA free agency.
The final piece to the puzzle was trading Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers at last year’s trade deadline. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka emphasized the cap space could be used to sign free agents or complete trades.
Pelinka pointed to Kyrie Irving unexpectedly becoming available as a prime benefit to maintaining flexibility. With Johnson promising to deliver within a two-window, the Lakers began it by signing LeBron James last summer.
Now, they might be positioned to capitalize on Anthony Davis demanding a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. Looking even further down the line, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski outlined a scenario in which the Lakers could eventually boast a roster that includes Davis and Klay Thompson during an appearance on “SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt“:
“Let’s say they do get a deal done sometime between now and free agency, the best-case scenario for the Lakers is they add Anthony Davis, and then Golden State doesn’t offer Klay Thompson a max contract. They try to get Klay to take a little bit less than the max. If that happens, I’m told Klay’s attention will be on the Lakers, if they have Anthony Davis. Now, we’ll see what Golden State does there. They’ve got a lot of players to pay going forward, they want to re-sign Kevin Durant, they certainly want to re-sign Klay. They’ve got Draymond Green coming up in free agency the following year. It’s going to be potentially a $300 million payroll to keep everybody.”
Prior to Davis informing the Pelicans he would not sign a five-year, $240 million supermax contract extension this summer, the Lakers were long presumed to be targeting the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Thompson as they’re each due to become a free agent.
However, their odds to sign Durant or Leonard have seemingly faded as time wore on. That’s not to suggest Thompson is a lock to join the Lakers by any means, but he’s widely been perceived as the most-likely option for them.
That’s in large part due to the loose ties Thompson has to the franchise through his father, Mychal, and because of the financial challenges the Warriors are facing.
Considering the Lakers ultimately missed out by not trading for Paul George, and figure to watch Leonard sign elsewhere this summer, it can be reasoned there will be more urgency in Davis trade talks. Regardless of possible implications with Thompson.
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