The Los Angeles Lakers have nearly filled out their roster for this upcoming season, but they appear to be looking well past this year.
The new front office of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka has not been shy about its desire to make a massive splash to bring the Lakers back to prominence. Whether that be through free agency or the trade market, the brass is determined to bring star power back to Tinsel Town.
With that in mind, let us take a look at the most recent developments in Los Angeles’ rebuild.
Paul George Package Revealed
The move to bring Paul George from the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder was the most high-profile transaction of the NBA offseason, and it appears the Lakers were in the mix to land the All Star forward.
Per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles offered up a pretty strong package for George despite him being a free agent in a year.
“In June, the Lakers offered [Jordan] Clarkson or fourth-year forward Julius Randle and their No. 27 and 28 picks to Indiana for Paul George,” Medina wrote (via the Orange County Register). “The Pacers declined before trading him to Oklahoma City for guard Victor Oladipo and center Domantas Sabonis.”
Clarkson and Randle are valuable young assets who seemingly could have provided Indiana with a better return than an average starter in Oladipo and an unproven player in Sabonis, who averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 20.1 minutes a night as a rookie.
Clarkson, 25, is a slasher who can contribute in other areas offensively. He put up 14.7 points per game to go with 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game last offseason. With the Los Angeles backcourt starting fill up with the additions of Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, it is no surprise that Clarkson often hears his name in trade rumors. Still, he is doing his best to ignore the buzz, per Medina.
“The only thing I can worry about in terms of stuff like that and trade rumors is myself and continue to work,” Clarkson said. “If I were to be traded, I just have to be ready to play. But I’m here in L.A. and am ready for the season. I’m excited.”
Meanwhile, Randle, only 22, is a strong post player, averaging a double-double just two seasons ago and missing out on one last season by 1.4 rebounds per game. It seems odd that the Lakers would also make him available in a trade offer for a player with one year left on his contract, but the front office is desperate to add superstars. Pelinka affirmed the notion Thursday that the team’s plan is to land such a player within the next year, per The Dan Patrick Show:
George has been linked to the Lakers as a free-agent destination for quite some time, so he may land there regardless. If that is the case, then Los Angeles is lucky Indiana passed on its offer. It allows the team’s young foundation to remain in place while still having cap space for 2018 free agency. The Lakers now also still have solid pieces in place in the event that George opts to spurn Los Angeles and sign elsewhere.
Lakers Add to Frontcourt
Roster spots are becoming a premium for the Lakers, and the team wrapped up one more position last week.
Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Los Angeles agreed to a deal last week with second-round pick Thomas Bryant, with the team confirming the move Saturday night. Charania provided details of the contract:
The guaranteed contract all but locks up a roster spot for Bryant last season, who was selected No. 42 overall in last month’s NBA draft. For a team that is not expected to seriously compete for anything more than a surprise playoff berth, this a smart bet.
Bryant moves well at 6’11” and he has the talent to become a contributor in the frontcourt in the modern NBA. He led the nation with a 68.3 percent field-goal percentage as a freshman before posting a solid 12.6 points per game last season as a sophomore. He also shot 38.3 percent from three last year, which could give him added value as an athletic big man who can stretch the floor.
Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation certainly seems sold on Bryant and his potential with an excellent passing point guard in Ball:
The key for Bryant will be properly harnessing that energy on a consistent basis. Despite usually being among the two or three most talented players on the court in every game he played in, Bryant would become invisible for long stretches at Indiana. He was often seen hovering around the three-point line during these lulls, which took him out of rhythm and forced him to take bad shots when he finally got the ball.
Bryant is most effective when running the floor and using his energy well, which can be seen in this impressive transition play last season, courtesy of the Big Ten Network:
The opportunity is there for Bryant to carve out a role in the Lakers frontcourt. He should thrive on the fast break and in the spacing system head coach Luke Walton is implementing, so there is no reason to doubt that Bryant will contribute next season.
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