The 2018 NBA Draft represented another opportunity for the Los Angeles Lakers to make progress in their quest to return to the mountain top, which is a process that could be quickly accelerated through free agency.
Another angle is via trade, with disgruntled San Antonio Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard serving as the most probable candidate. The Lakers reportedly initiated contact with the Spurs on a potential trade, only to be immediately turned away.
General manager Rob Pelinka declined to confirm whether or not the Lakers held any trade talks. “Out of respect for other teams, we don’t really comment about our conversations publicly,” he said after the Draft.
“We certainly wouldn’t want them to do that with us. We’re going to do everything we can, whether it’s through trades, through free agency, or through the draft, we’re going to be very aggressive in getting to the destination.”
Last summer, Paul George attempted to force his way to Los Angeles. Now it’s Leonard who’s taking a similar approach as he reportedly is informing teams of his intentions to ultimately sign with the Lakers or Clippers as a 2019 free agent.
With their rich history, copious salary cap space and being an organization trending upward, teams might not be inclined to contribute to the Lakers’ rebuild. Though, Pelinka said that hasn’t been a hurdle.
“We knew we wanted to try to acquire another pick in the beginning of the second round, and we feel like we’re going to be able to accomplish that,” he said. The Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers cannot finalize their trade until July 6.
“It’s not like teams are saying, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do a deal with the Lakers.’ But I do think when you have 16 banners, there’s going to be a natural envy from your competitors because you’re sitting at the top of the food chain,” Pelinka continued.
“That’s just life in general. I think if you have success in any walk of life you’re going to face that. We don’t really see that as a challenge, we just see it as a reality. We also feel like because of the DNA shift here and because of the energy around our young core and our cap flexibility, that players want to be here.
“Whether other teams want to participate in that or not, we can’t control. But we can control the environment we have here and creating energy where great players will want to be Lakers.”
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