The Los Angeles Lakers have turned a corner in November, slowly climbing to their current 11-7 record and getting some good wins in the process. Even with their playoff team profile (they are nearly a top ten team in both offense and defense), the Lakers’ ceiling will always be limited by the lack of a second star alongside LeBron James.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka did not break the bank to get that second star this summer, declining to go all in on trades for Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, both of whom had at least some interest in joining the Lakers. They did so knowing they would have a strong selection of free agents they could potentially sign in 2019, headlined by the traded duo and Kevin Durant.
If the star power in the upcoming free agency class do not want to join James in LA, however, the Lakers already have their eyes set on a player in the second tier. According to Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, the Lakers are keeping an eye on a free agent from the 13-5 Milwaukee Bucks:
There will be opportunities to explore — both the Lakers and Clippers, sources say, will have interest in Middleton, and he’ll have options with rebuilding teams such as New York, Dallas and Cleveland.
The Bucks are second in the East right now, so they should want to keep their team together. Middleton is an ideal second or third star next to a guy like Giannis Antetokounmpo (or LeBron James), with his two-way play and ability to impact the game without much control of the ball.
Through the Bucks’ first 18 games of the season, Middleton is averaging 19.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting 46 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from three on a career-high 7.1 attempts per game.
Middleton is not Durant, Leonard, Butler or Klay Thompson, the four elite potential free agents who could change teams this summer. But he’s firmly in that second group of available players with the likes of Kemba Walker who could have a monumental impact on the Lakers should they strike out on their primary options.
Of course, with so much time left until free agency, there’s no telling what the Lakers’ or Middleton’s future could hold. The wing could be sold on staying in Milwaukee based on their strong season led by new head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Lakers could opt to go in a different direction, based on the development of their young players and how their rocky season continues.
Nevertheless, it’s promising that the franchise is doing their homework on players beyond the All-NBA level free agents to have multiple options for next season.