While the Los Angeles Lakers did not do anything before the trade deadline to position themselves for the 2017-18 season, the organization took a considerable step forward for the future.
By dealing away Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., the Lakers are now able to afford two max free agents in the summer. The obvious targets would include LeBron James and Paul George.
Even if the Lakers are unable to lure one or both of the prized free agents this summer, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka could roll that money over to the following summer, which will also have a host of players available such as Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has a player option following next season.
Although the team will miss the two younger players, the Lakers are setting up to make a big move into the Western Conference’s elite. Should players like James and George opt to play in Los Angeles, they would join cornerstone pieces like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
In the deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which brought Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye over to Los Angeles, the Lakers also acquired another first-round pick.
"(I) wouldn't have made the move if I wasn't confident," said Johnson, referring to the prospect of luring marquee free agents. “I wouldn't have made the move. We have got to take the next step."
"We now have real 100% space to do two max players if that is what we decide to do, or one in 2018 and then following it up with another one in 2019," Pelinka added.
While the pick will likely come in the bottom third of the 2018 NBA Draft, the Lakers have already proven they can find talent in deep drafts. Last season, the Lakers uncovered Kuzma, who is in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award.
The Lakers have relinquished Clarkson, Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell, and Timofey Mozgov in trades to open up space. The financial flexibility should pay off when the team enters free agency.
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