The Los Angeles Lakers’ present looks pretty bleak. But the future is a different story, and it appears they’re already looking ahead.
The Lakers plan to be sellers entering this year’s NBA trade deadline, ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday, writing L.A. hopes to “shed salary for summer free agency” by making young assets Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. available.
The team desires to trade Clarkson “sooner than later,” per Wojnarowski and has “made it clear” that Clarkson, Randle and Nance all are on the market as the Feb. 8 deadline approaches. The Lakers also plan to buy out the final two years of Luol Deng’s contract following the season to clear extra cap space.
L.A.’s “sell-mode” approach could have multiple ramifications across the league. First, the Celtics would obtain the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2018 if it falls between No. 2 and No. 5, meaning Boston is rooting for its rival to tank.
The Lakers currently are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the NBA’s second-worst record and are just two games ahead of the bottom-dwelling Atlanta Hawks, so if L.A. sells off at the trade deadline, the Celtics could have a real chance of landing that pick (assuming the Lakers don’t tank all the way to the No. 1 selection).
More importantly for the rest of the NBA, it certainly appears the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at a premier free agent like LeBron James or Paul George this summer.
Both James and George, an L.A. native, have been tied to the Lakers in free agent rumors — L.A. actually was found guilty of a tampering charge involving George while he was with the Indiana Pacers — and selling off mid-level assets like Clarkson, Randle and Nance certainly would put them in position to make a run at a superstar.
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