In their first offseason as front office partners, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will have all the eyes of Laker-land on them. Of course, this all starts with the NBA Draft Lottery and finding out if the team will secure a top-3 selection. While the duo was attending the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Johnson might have hinted at the team’s plans for this summer.
It is no secret that the front office covets a big name player to don the purple and gold, and with cap space and assets to do so the only question remaining is when? With multiple reports saying the team will look to trade for Paul George by getting rid of some of the team’s young core there is speculation that they will look to add their superstar quickly. That might not be the case though, according to Johnson.
In an interview during the Combine, Magic was asked about the $23 million in cap space and ways to improve the team this offseason. Johnson answered those questions by saying:
“There are always trades that could be made. Then we do have cap space as well so can sign a free agent if we wanted to, but I’m really looking to keep the cap space that we have and really try to play in next year’s free agent class, and not really this free agent class.”
This could be interpreted in a few different ways. Everything could very well change if the Lakers were to land a top-3 selection next Tuesday as that would be just another asset they have to help acquire a star player. By not shutting down the idea of a trade, Magic is keeping options open and possibly trying to drive down the asking price for a player like Paul George, who is set to be a free agent in 2018. Many believe that the LA native is “hell bent” on getting to the Lakers once he is a free agent. With that said, this could be a ploy to make Indiana more likely to take less for George if the Lakers are likely to just compete for his services next summer.
On the other hand the Lakers, like many others, just might not be that impressed with this summer’s class of free agents. Players like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Gordon Hayward headline the class but there is almost zero chance that any of them are considering the Lakers at this point. In that case, retaining as much cap space as possible would be a smart route for the team in case they can land someone like Paul George next offseason. Doing so would leave them with some flexibility to try to build a competitive roster around one of those guys.
Either way, the front office has been doing and saying the right things from the time they took over. They have brought on a new life to the team and their motives are clear; to get the Lakers contending again sooner rather than later.