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#pounditSunday, April 11, 2021

Report: Lakers may give up on LeBron James, focus on 2019 free agent class

LeBron James

It was not all that long ago that it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Lakers would sign Paul George in the summer of 2018 and use that as a way to entice LeBron James to also take his talents to Los Angeles. But suddenly, it sounds as though the Lakers may not even try to execute that plan.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne are reporting that the Lakers’ front office is starting to turn its attention toward the 2019 free agent class. With Paul George hinting that he might re-sign with the Thunder and LeBron not wanting to be part of a rebuilding project, the Lakers may prefer to better position themselves to make a big splash in a free agent class that could include Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson in 2019.

If the Lakers are planning to make a run at two superstars this summer, they will have to unload some contracts before the trade deadline this week. As Wojnarowski and Shelburne note, refocusing their attention on 2019 could allow them to take on some contracts by making trades with teams in need of salary cap space who would be willing to send draft picks along with players. Two players that L.A. has considered trading are Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, and both have played well during a stretch that has seen the Lakers win 10 of 14 games.

The Lakers have a talented young core that is led by Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, and those players are still very raw. Waiting would allow them time to develop while also stockpiling draft picks rather than freeing up space for George and/or LeBron and getting turned down. L.A. was also reportedly considering making a trade offer for DeMarcus Cousins, but the big man is out for the season with a torn Achilles.

While James is still playing at a high level, he turned 33 in December. Some reports we have heard make it seem like the Lakers are the exact type of situation he wants to avoid if he leaves the Cavaliers again.


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