It seems the Los Angeles Lakers will leave the rumors market when they feel like it.
Finally in full control of the rebuild, the Lakers continue to take their sweet time fading away from the rumor mill thanks to possible trades, past gambles on potential trades and filling out the roster in interesting ways.
Not too long ago, the Lakers didn’t have much say in anything, including the rumor mill, as big-name free agents used the historic franchise as a leverage point before taking their talents elsewhere. That seemed to change with the recent unexpected signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
While things are mostly set around the Lakers, a few housecleaning items have made for interesting storyline angles, and one peek into the past can tell fans much about the future. Let’s take a look.
Lakers Make Another Signing/Getty Images
The Lakers kept a little intrigue to the offseason going until recently, as one of the team’s final roster spots needed filled.
Granted, the Lakers weren’t expected to make an overly big move with little in the way of cap space and an unwillingness to commit cash for 2018 and risk interfering it the pursuit of major names. But the Lakers didn’t seem done after inking rookie Thomas Bryant to his deal.
Then The Vertical’s Shams Charania dropped the following report:
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Sources: The Lakers and G League MVP and summer league guard Vander Blue have agreed on a partially guaranteed deal.
Vander Blue is an interesting depth piece for the Lakers over the offseason. He went undrafted in 2013 out of Marquette and had a stint with the Boston Celtics out of college before a brief appearance with the Lakers in 2014-15.
Normally such a signing might not register as the biggest ordeal, but Blue hoisted the 2016-17 D-League MVP trophy on the back of averaging 24.8 points per game. He hasn’t had much in the way of notable in-game Association experience, but coming in at the age of 25 and boasting such a resume could mean a serious fight on the depth chart soon.
Granted, Blue will have a hard time beating out someone like Tyler Ennis, but with trade chatter continuing to circle the team, it’s impossible to know what sort of battle he might find himself in soon.
PG13 Trade Offer Speaks VolumesSue Ogrocki/Associated Press
The Lakers have always seemed like the final destination for George, and such a line of thinking hasn’t evaporated because the front office couldn’t reel him in right away.
In fact, such thoughts have only intensified after reports about the team’s efforts to trade him continue to leak into the limelight. An offer reported by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News hints at how serious the Lakers were about making something happen.
“First, the move that did not happen: in June, the Lakers offered Clarkson or fourth-year forward Julius Randle and their No. 27 and 28 picks to Indiana for Paul George. The Pacers declined before trading him to Oklahoma City for guard Victor Oladipo and center Domantas Sabonis,” Medina wrote.
It’s not hard to see why the Indiana Pacers didn’t have an interest in the Lakers’ offer, as Victor Oladipo is great value and Julius Randle would be a tad redundant with Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner already underneath the basket. A bit of spite for the team likely encouraging PG13 to leave town probably made the decision-making process easier, too.
But the biggest note here is how far the Lakers were willing to go. The Magic Johnson led front office traded away D’Angelo Russell, but the general consensus seemed to be that would be the end of trading away the young core attained over the past few years.
Apparently not. Even with Lonzo Ball and KCP on the roster, Jordan Clarkson has plenty to offer the franchise at 25 years old. Randle, all of 22 years old, continues reaching toward his ceiling.
The seriousness of the pursuit hints at how hard the Lakers will pursue PG13 if he hits the open market next offseason. It’s hard to imagine the Thunder seek a trade at the deadline unless something silly happens with the Russell Westbrook extension situation, but clearly the Lakers won’t be fully out of the running in that area, either.
Clarkson Trade Isn’t Off TableJim Mone/Associated Press
Given the above, one would almost begin to think Clarkson is out of the proverbial woods.
Clarkson’s issue is being a young commodity with upside on a contract making him a cap hit north of $11 million until he hits free agency in 2020, according to Spotrac.
Meaning, of course, he’s the perfect trade candidate if the Lakers need to clear some cap space to make a splash. Take a look at an interesting note by Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus: “One person within the organization who isn’t permitted to speak publicly on the subject told Bleacher Report the team is confident it can move Clarkson if needed to open space.”
This angle presumes the Lakers will have the option of signing not one, but two max superstar players next offseason.
It sounds wild at first pass, but after the KCP win, Magic at the controls and the roster budding into something special after years of rebuilding, it’s not the most outlandish scenario in the league anymore.
Lakers fans aren’t strangers to who the team might pursue, either. There’s the PG13 angle, while guys like DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James can also hit the open market. For those guys, leading a renaissance in Los Angeles next to a young core of Ball and Brandon Ingram might look quite attractive.
Even one superstar might put Clarkson on the outs, though, as letting guys like Brook Lopez walk in the offseason might not give the front office enough future-looking wiggle room. Rebalancing the books is one of Magic’s most important tasks over the next few years, which started by dumping the Timofey Mozgov contract in the Russell trade.
For better or worse, Clarkson is one of the last men standing in terms of realistic trade candidates on the Lakers—meaning his name isn’t going to leave the rumor mill.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.