With this trade, the Lakers roster consists of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner, and Isaac Bonga. They also have approximately $33 million in cap space to sign this offseason.
After a short celebration, the Lakers front office needs to do the exact opposite of last year – have a successful free agency. They don’t have a pick in this year’s Draft anymore, and they are counting down to July 1st. If they started making calls now, that would be tampering, and we know the Lakers don’t do that (nor do 29 other teams in the NBA).
The primary question for them is: do we go hunting for another max player and fill out the roster with minimum players or do we use the $33 million to get several good starters and bench players?
Lakers DNA is to go big and try to get another max guy. Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler have been mentioned a lot recently in the past few days. Both can get better financial offers from their current teams, but with AD in a Lakers uniform and KD and Klay injured, the Lakers are a prime target for ring chasing (Las Vegas agrees and has Lakers as the favorites to win the title next year).
Kemba said Charlotte is his priority and if MJ puts a supermax in front of him, he is staying with the Hornets. If they start negotiating the price down, going to LA and contending for a title could intice Kemba to switch conferences.
Jimmy Butler is a similar story. WIth Klay and KD out (and Kawhi possibly leaving Toronto), Philadelphia has all the reason in the world to retain him and Harris – with that core they would have a real chance for a Finals appearance. Lakers or 76ers, Jimmy would be the third option with one big difference – he would be the go-to guy in the last 5 min of a game in Philly.
I’d prefer to see the Lakers go the other route and use the remaining cap space to get several good role players. Toronto played seven outstanding players in the playoffs, and it worked. Lakers could have two superstars and an outstanding supporting cast. That helps to deal with injuries and team chemistry.
But, do we trust Pelinka & Co. to identify and sign such players?