The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into the summer with far more optimism than the previous two years, with the No. 2 pick and over $60 million in cap space at their disposal.
While general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss will look to add talent to the roster this summer, they will need to retain a key member of their young core.
Jordan Clarkson will be a restricted free agent starting July 1, meaning he can sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Lakers can keep him in Los Angeles if they match the offer. Of course, if the Lakers and Clarkson agree on a deal outright, it may not even get to that point.
While Clarkson can explore options elsewhere and gauge his market value this summer, he does not appear eager to depart from the team that drafted him. In a recent interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Chris McGee, Clarkson expressed his desire to remain with the Lakers (h/t Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold).
“I want to stay in L.A.,” Clarkson told McGee. “I don’t really look at it as me being a free agent, because I want to be here.”
That is great news for the Lakers, as they hope to continue building onto their young core, which started in the 2014 NBA Draft when they selected Julius Randle No. 7 overall before buying a second round pick to add Clarkson.
Clarkson has a unique contract situation. If he does sign an offer sheet with another team, the most he could make in the first two years is just under $6 million before it balloons in the third and fourth year. This could be beneficial to the Lakers, as they could match an offer sheet and retain Clarkson while preserving salary cap flexibility for the next two years while they look to add free agents.
Los Angeles will likely attempt to wait until after their effort to bring in new talent to deal with Clarkson’s contract, since it’s the best way to utilize their massive cap space this summer.
Whether or not they will be able to bring in marquee free agents to join him is the main question heading into this summer. One thing is for sure, though. It appears very likely that Clarkson will be back in purple and gold next season.
For the full Clarkson interview with McGee, click here.