Stephen A. Smith says the Los Angeles Lakers should sign Klay Thompson next offseason.
Not only does the ESPN analyst believe the Lakers should target the three-point sharpshooter when he’s a free agent next offseason, he went so far as to say that the Lakers should sign Klay over both Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant because he’s a better fit playing alongside LeBron James, as stated on First Take:
“I’d take Klay Thompson over Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard to be LeBron James’ teammate next.”
Smith goes on to defend his claim, saying that Thompson isn’t better than Durant or Leonard. He’s simply saying it’s a personnel fit:
“Under NO circumstance am I saying Klay Thompson is better than Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard. I’m simply saying Klay is a BETTER FIT with LeBron James.”
All three of the aforementioned players will be free agents in the class of 2019. While most people assume Durant and Thompson will re-sign with the Warriors, that’s far from a certainty. Furthermore, a lot are assuming that Leonard is just going to walk out of Toronto without giving the Raptors a chance, but that’s a foolish assumption.
Maybe Durant gets tired of winning titles easily without a challenge, maybe Thompson feels disrespected by the Warriors’ contract offers and wants a larger role and maybe Leonard actually likes it in Toronto. In a situation where this happens, the Lakers have to make some tough and unexpected decisions in next year’s free agency.
Following the contract buyout of Luol Deng, the Lakers now have to proper salary cap space to lure a second major free agent, whether it be Durant, Thompson or Leonard:
“ESPN reporting with @ramonashelburne: In buyout with Lakers, Luol Deng walked away from $7.5M on the $36.8M left on his contract. With waive and stretch provision, Lakers have cleared $38M in salary cap space in 2019 free agency.”
If Thompson were to jump to the Lakers, it would make a lot of sense. This is a guy that has played his entire career off of the ball while allowing guys like Stephen Curry and Durant to hook him up for spot-up shots. The same would apply while playing alongside LeBron. Furthermore, with James getting up there in age, you could preserve his energy for offense by allowing Thompson to guard the opposing team’s best player.
And while Thompson wouldn’t be the “alpha,” he would have a much larger role on the Lakers as the second option compared to Golden State where he’ll be no better than the third option.
Thompson’s father, Mychal, recently stated that his son would be a Warrior for life. Klay himself also said that he’d like to be a Warrior for life but that he’s still going to hit free agency in 2019, via Mercury News:
“I’ve said it many times before: I would like to be a Warrior for life,” Thompson told Bay Area News Group before hosting a party at Hotel Vitale as a prelude to his first annual Thompson Family Foundation Golf Tournament on Sunday at TPC Harding Park. “Contract negotiations are way down the line. But I think we all have the same interest. I would love to be here for the rest of my career.”
“It’s tough to say,” Thompson said. “I’d definitely be interested. But at the end of the day, I’m going to be a free agent in 2019. Number one on my list would obviously be to stay with the Warriors.”
We’ll find out what the Lakers think in 2019.