Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has hardly made any secret of his team’s desire to sign multiple superstars in 2018 NBA free agency, both in his words and in actions.
Team officials like Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have spoken openly about maintaining “flexiblity” for the summer to come, when players like LeBron James, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins can enter unrestricted free agency.
The Lakers also traded D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez in large part so they could get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s onerous contract, and Lopez’s expiring deal will give them just enough cap space to sign two max players in conjunction with other moves.
However, during an appearance on Spectrum Sportsnet’s “Connected With…,” Johnson explained there shouldn’t be an expectation that the Lakers will use their entire salary cap space just because they have it. They want to sign the right players, not just any players:
“I feel really good about it. Now, we have cap space for probably two max guys, but that’s not to say we’ll use both of them. We want to if we can, but we have a Plan A and we have Plan B. Say we only get one of those guys, then we’ll make a decision on not to use the cap space. We can do that and save it for the class that’s coming the next year. We’re not going to give money away just because we have the cap space. I’m not about that. If the guy can’t really take our team to another level, and we see what Kyrie Irving has done for the Boston Celtics. Put him with that young talent the Celtics have, and they’ve taken off. We feel the same thing can happen for the Lakers. If we get the right free agent, that guy can take our young talent to a whole ‘nother level.”
The Lakers would have a harder time justifying using Russell to dump salary if they don’t sign two superstars, but that reality also shouldn’t make the organization feel as though it has to sign two max players.
That’s the type of mindset that led to the team signing Mozgov and Luol Deng to gargantuan deals, something they should be looking to avoid moving forward.
The Lakers will be a lot better off should they sign two superstars, that much is certain, but the team certainly doesn’t have to. If they whiff this summer, they have a promising young core to fall back on, and they should avoid wasting that window just to chase a few extra wins with an overpaid veteran or two.
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