What Will the Lakers Be in 2019?
Fun day for the Lakers! Not only have they been fined for tampering with Giannis Antetokounmpo, after team president Magic Johnson made public comments about the Bucks star, but they are also reportedly backing away from being a free-agent destination this summer.
The Lakers may be bad next season. Again. If the front office does wind up “recalibrating focus” to go after free agents in 2019 and not this coming summer, as ESPN reported Tuesday, they’ll likely extend their postseason-less streak to six.
Los Angeles looked like it was throwing in all the chips for 2018 free agency, when LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins can hit the market. A quiet pre-trade deadline until this point, save for whispers about dumping potential cap-clogging players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, seemed to confirm that. First-year GM Rob Pelinka said in late January that if a worthwhile trade doesn’t “present itself, then we’ll stay the course with what we have.”
But with Cousins on the mend after tearing his Achilles, George getting all lovey-dovey with the Thunder, and James’s interest in question, Pelinka and president Magic Johnson are, per the report, looking to sit back.
This wait-it-out pivot is also what a team looking to get leverage before Thursday’s deadline would say. Teams across the league, aware that the Lakers would need to shed more salary for next season to execute their free-agent plot, probably aren’t jumping at the chance to help clear a path for the league’s glamour franchise to land LeBron.
The Lakers may well be playing more for 2019, when Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler may all be available. But patience has never been this franchise’s preferred route.
Hawks for Sale
The Hawks’ trade-deadline experience has been 12 consecutive swipes right. Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk is reportedly making his entire roster, with the exception of rookie John Collins, available for trade. The problem is, not one team is biting.
One scout, per The Sporting News, laughed at the idea, and called the roster “slim pickings.” Center Dewayne Dedmon is an attractive option — the 28-year-old, formerly of the Spurs, improved offensively in his freer role within the Hawks offense, averaging career bests in scoring (10 points) and rebounds (7.7) in 23 minutes per game. He’s cheap, making $6 million this season, but has a player option for next season and might not be worth what the Hawks are asking for. Kent Bazemore’s contract is an expensive one to take on, good for $18 million next season, and, assuming he opts in the following year, $19 million after that. Per the same Sporting News report, executives expect that the Hawks will buy out Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova if they can’t find trade partners for them; Dennis Schröder is averaging the most points of his career with 19.3, but that has as much to do with the lack of other scoring options in Atlanta — he’s shooting 28 percent from the 3-point line and takes a rather inefficient 17.4 shots per game to put up that career high — at it does any spike in Schröder’s ceiling.
Boston Wants Some Offensive Pop
All reports suggest Marcus Smart is Boston’s most available trade piece. Denver has shown interest, though its offer, which reportedly amounts to former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay, is apparently not what Danny Ainge has in mind. (Per Marc Stein, he wants a first-round pick. What else?) Smart is a top defender, but he’s out until mid-February after injuring his hand because he was so upset with his recent play that he punched a picture in his hotel room. Smart is on an expiring contract, as well, which could make him a good rental.
Boston has also inquired about Lou Williams and Tyreke Evans. Both have become valuable pieces over the course of this season, but their respective teams, the Clippers and Grizzlies, are planning for the future. Both are free agents this summer. Evans is also sought by Denver, Philadelphia, and Miami.
DeAndre, the Wizard?
Winners of five in a row, the Wizards are trying to get in the DeAndre Jordan sweepstakes, and it sounds like Marcin Gortat is the price of admission. Gortat, who has another season and $13 million left on his contract, is averaging nine points and eight boards this season, his lowest in both categories in eight years.
Jordan, who has a player option this summer, is most of what Gortat is not: an elite rim protector and a big who can produce interior scoring.