Signing LeBron James because he wanted to live in Los Angeles isn’t a stroke of genius for Magic Johnson but everything else the Los Angeles Lakers have done just might be. It could land them a player like Kevin Durant next summer.
After signing James, the Lakers showed great restraint, signing a number of one-year deals to keep the books clean for another max free agent next summer. They were also patient in unloading Luol Deng, whose burdensome contract was handed out by the previous regime.
Not only did they not have to give up any assets to offload his contract, they were able to buyout and stretch him for significant savings.
SB Nation’s Tom Ziller brought up a terrifying thought for the rest of the league:
But what about players with 10 or more years of service, like, say, Kevin Durant? Their projected max starting salary next year is $38.2 million. So stretching Deng over three years wouldn’t quite do the trick. There would need to be another move to make the space.
Unless the Lakers convinced Deng to take a discount to get out of his contract.
Which they did.
Only Durant and those close to him could say if he might be interested in joining LeBron in Los Angeles. The heavy favorite for a second superstar on the Lakers is probably still Kawhi Leonard, who was traded to the Toronto Raptors during the summer.
The important thing is the Lakers have a plan, resources, and options, which is all you can really ask for from a front office. Acquiring LeBron James was a no-brainer. Everything else is going to take quite a bit of finesse.