This isn’t what fans of the Los Angeles Lakers want to hear, but the team sat around during the early free-agency flurry and watched as other teams made the major moves.
As expected, Magic Johnson and the front office weren’t big players. Barring a surprising trade for Paul George, the Lakers looked ready to remain in their patient rebuild while circling 2018 on the calendar.
From the sounds of the rumblings and the look of the roster itself, the Lakers won’t make much noise at any point in free agency. This doesn’t mean the team won’t target a few players or better position itself for 2018, though, so let’s take a look.
Market Targets Revealed
Fans have known for quite some time the Lakers wouldn’t gun after a major free agent this year, let alone a guy who will come at a mid-sized price tag.
After all, executive Rob Pelinka told Shelburne earlier this month the team would be “sacred” with cap space while prepping for 2018. If the team makes a move this summer, it’s going to be of the short-term variety with an option.
With this approach in mind, it makes sense the Lakers targeted the following players, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Shelburne followed with one more name to keep in mind:
It’s an interesting set of names, to say the least.
Andre Iguodala is obviously the biggest name. He’s spent the last four years with the Golden State Warriors while playing at a favorable salary so the team could contend. He’s probably looking for a big payday, though it wouldn’t be ridiculous for the Lakers to make it happen over the short term.
Iguodala, 33, would provide quite the mentor presence for young guys like Lonzo Ball and especially Brandon Ingram. He can still produce, too, if that’s part of the selling point, as he averaged 7.6 points, 3.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds last year on 52.8 percent shooting over all of 26.3 minutes.
If Iguodala is the biggest name, Rajon Rondo might be the most polarizing. The 31-year-old point guard has bounced around with three different teams over as many seasons, clashing with coaching staffs at times and only averaging 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game over 26.7 minutes, despite playing next to Jimmy Butler with the Chicago Bulls last year.
Then there’s Ben McLemore, the 2013 No. 7 pick by the Sacramento Kings, who for his career averages 9.4 points on 41.7 percent shooting over 25.5 minutes.
The roles here aren’t hard to see—Iguodala is the big name who can mentor the rebuild, but he’s being pursued by about seven teams, according to ESPN’s ESPN’s Chris Haynes. Both Rondo and McLemore are affordable backcourt depth to compensate for the loss of D’Angelo Russell.
PG13 Heads West…
…just not as far as the Lakers would’ve preferred.
The Lakers weren’t a serious contender to land George via trade right now. It isn’t what many will want to hear, but we’ve known for a while now that Magic wasn’t willing to offer Ingram in return for George, as reported by Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Compounding the issue in potential negotiations might’ve been a simple case of borderline pettiness, according to Shelburne on a broadcast, per Lakers Nation’s Trevor Lane:
The Pacers have every right to be frustrated with the situation. The league implemented a new supermax contract in the hopes teams would be able to keep superstars just like him—though to be fair, it hasn’t helped the Los Angeles Clippers when it comes to Chris Paul.
This petty factor might be a bit of a stretch anyway if the Lakers weren’t willing to give up a prospect like Ingram. The Thunder at least surrendered a guy the Pacers can build around like Victor Oladipo, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.
But here’s where the good news comes into play—if a team like the Boston Celtics and their seemingly endless assets didn’t make a move for George when they could’ve undoubtedly offered a better package, it suggests there is real fear PG13 leaves after one season so he can join his hometown Lakers.
That is, perhaps, unless George starts competing for titles, as an executive hinted during a conversation with The Vertical’s Chris Mannix:
We could argue over whether George and Russell Westbrook are enough to take down Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry in Golden State or Paul and James Harden in Houston until next year’s Finals actually happen.
Regardless, the Lakers will keep an eye on the Thunder all season. The situation is more volatile than it seems because Westbrook has a player option in 2018, and if he doesn’t ink an extension, the front office might consider dealing him before the deadline so they don’t get burnt like they did with Durant.
On the flip side, if Westbrook inks another extension and the Thunder flirt with the Finals, the Lakers might have to start thinking about contingency plans.
The good news? This market opening wasn’t a disappointment for the Lakers or their fans. Tempered expectations were needed going into it, which is a welcome change of pace for a franchise approaching a rebuild the right way.
Enjoy it while it lasts—this time next year will be sheer chaos.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com