The Lakers spent the first day of NBA free agency announcing the biggest signing we have seen in years with LeBron James. From there, the Lakers announced a series of smaller signings in the 24 hours following the one sentence press release from Klutch Sports. Since then, the Lakers have been quiet, causing many Lakers fans to wonder if they are looking at a finished roster.
The answer is a bit nuanced, as this may not exactly be the final roster heading into training camp, but the Lakers do not have enough cap space remaining to make a major move through free agency. All signs point to the Lakers targeting the 2019 free agency class to get their second star player to pair with James.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Lakers have $5.6 million in cap room to spend this summer. Los Angeles was able to get a little more flexibility thanks to renouncing the rights to Julius Randle, who signed with the Pelicans as an unrestricted free agent. Fans can expect a couple more veteran signings, but the only way the Lakers get a second marquee player to pair with James prior to 2019 is through a trade.
Marks also reported the Lakers are likely to sit tight when it comes to trading for Kawhi Leonard. So far, the Lakers appear to be unwilling to part with their young players like Kyle Kuzma in a potential deal.
Not trading for Leonard checks the boxes in so many scenarios. For starters, even if the Lakers wanted to strike now, making the money work presents problems. L.A. will be $5.6 million below the cap after James, Caldwell-Pope and Rondo are officially signed, and the team will need to clear $14.5 million in space to get a deal done. Once Stephenson and McGee are signed, the Lakers go over the cap and will need to get close to $16 million in outgoing contracts in a Leonard trade.
Currently, the Lakers have only $36 million in player contracts available to use in a trade, including the $18.1 million Deng salary. Any superstar trade this offseason would likely jettison all their young players, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Making a move during the season could make sense with the players signed to one-year contracts, but remember that Caldwell-Pope has veto power on any trade because of the one-year Bird restriction.
Does LeBron Want to Play With Lonzo?
There had been rumblings that James did not want to play with Lozno Ball, particularly with the sideshow his father LaVar Ball tends to create. Ball had been mentioned in trade rumors, prior to news breaking that he was recovering from a torn meniscus. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported there is some belief that Ball’s representatives leaked the injury news to prevent Ball from getting traded. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that James is okay playing with Ball.
“All that said, LeBron did tell the Lakers on Saturday night that he likes Lonzo’s game and is excited to play with him,” Shelburne tweeted.
While Ball’s passing ability can shine next to James, the current Lakers roster lacks the traditional shooting ability we have seen from successful teams with James as the centerpiece. James has been complimentary of Ball’s game since he entered the league, and even took time to watch him play last year in summer league. James praised Ball’s game after their December 2017 matchup, per Bleacher Report.
It’s always team. Passes the ball. Pushes the ball up the floor. Someone that you want to play with. I don’t see the reaction because I don’t get involved in it. I don’t do it to get a reaction. I do it because [Lonzo’s] said over and over since he was growing up who he modeled his game after. Who was his favorite player. It was me. I was humbled by that. Me wishing him happy birthday was kind of the salute back to him. I see all the stupid noise that happens. I can’t buy a place in L.A. I can’t live in L.A. It’s funny noise. But I don’t get involved in it. When I post things, I don’t look at the comments. I’m so far removed from the white noise and the noise it doesn’t matter.
Lakers Roster & Projected Starting Lineup With LeBron James for 2018-19
The Lakers have already added Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson through free agency. Los Angeles has also re-signed Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope. Expect there to be a few more bargain plays for veterans who want to join James in Los Angeles. Rondo and Ball are expected to compete for the starting point guard spot. Here’s a look at the current roster.
C- JaVale McGee, Mo Wagner, Ivica Zubac
PF- Kyle Kuzma, Isaac Bonga
SF- LeBron James, Luol Deng, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
SG- Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Josh Hart
PG- Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso
Lakers free agents: Brook Lopez (UFA), Channing Frye (UFA), Travis Wear (RFA), Andre Ingram (RFA), Gary Payton II (RFA), Isaiah Thomas (UFA)
Source: Heavy Sports