The Los Angeles Lakers have made their plan for the 2018 offseason clear ever since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka were hired in an overhaul of the front office: Clear cap space for free agency so they have room to sign two max-free agents from a class headlined by Paul George and LeBron James.
The only problem? The Lakers don’t have that type of cap space yet. They owe $36.8 million to Luol Deng and $25.9 million to Jordan Clarkson over the next two seasons, and that’s without mentioning Julius Randle’s cap hold of around $12.5 million.
The Lakers would have to renounce two of those three, at the very least, if they want to open up the two max slots they covet. Now, they may have confidence in being able to move at least one of the aforementioned players.
During an appearance on ESPN’s Full Court Press special, NBA insider Adrian Wojnorowski indicated the Lakers believe they can easily trade Clarkson, perhaps even if they wait until the offseason to do so:
“They believe they can trade Jordan Clarkson and get his money off. They prefer not to do it at the trade deadline. Clarkson has helped them win games this year, and because they don’t have their pick, they want to win as many games as they can. So I think there’s some confidence there that they can find a deal for Clarkson after the season, to get his money off. But there’s got to be a sequencing here. And it gets back to, are they going to chase one max-salary slot, or two?”
Clarkson is no stranger to trade rumors, and has called them ‘motivation’ in the past. He’s mostly played well as a microwave scorer off the bench this season, averaging 13.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting.
However, his play has stagnated of late. Clarkson’s averages have dropped to seven points on 32 percent shooting over the Lakers’ last five games.
If Clarkson can bounce back to the level of productivity he displayed earlier in the season, then he could be a solid piece for any playoff team looking to supplement their scoring.
If the Lakers’ intention to not trade him before the deadline is accurate and not just posturing through leaks, however, he might be even easier to move in the offseason, when every team is undefeated and can talk themselves into believing they’re a player of Clarkson’s talent from reaching their goals.
Or the Lakers might not trade him, and might find another way to clear the cap space they need. Only time will tell, but the rumors are going to keep mentioning Clarkson until it’s clear what the Lakers have decided what to do with him.
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