The Los Angeles Lakers have the fourth pick in next month’s NBA Draft. They’ll also be looking to make key moves in the NBA offseason.
The Lakers purposely filled their roster with one-year contracts to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019 where several NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeAndre Jordan are expected to become unrestricted free agents.
“KD is the Lakers’ top free agent priority this summer; followed by Kawhi Leonard,” a league source tied to the Los Angeles Lakers shared with me last month.
Spoke to a source today who confirmed Kevin Durant will be a LA Laker next year.
“Just like LeBron planned his move LA a year or more earlier, #KD is doing the same right now. They want to form the best duo in the NBA and set up KD to be the face of the Lakers post-#LeBron.” pic.twitter.com/BWR9TOWPMZ
— Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson (@ScoopB) September 17, 2018
Durant signed a two-year, $61.5 million contract with the Warriors and has the option to opt out ahead of the 2019-20 season, per Spotrac.
I followed up with that source over the weekend and word around Los Angeles is that there has been a shift.
The cause? Durant’s injury and the unknown surrounding it.
Durant has been out for some time with a strained calf.
He suffered the injury during Round 2 of the Warriors’ NBA Playoffs matchup against the Houston Rockets.
Many believed that it was an Achilles injury, but the diagnosis has been set at a strained calf.
Per Heavy’s Jeff Smith: It’s believed that a strained calf could hold a player out for roughly six weeks.
If that proved true in this case, even when factoring in that Warriors coach, Steve Kerr said the injury was worse than initially thought, it would set up a return around June 12.
Obviously, that timeline can be changed, but if that were the case, it would mean Durant wouldn’t be back on the floor until a possible Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“KD is still a top target, tentatively,” I was told over the weekend.
“But the sense is that KD’s injury could be much more worse than what’s being reported. This is just like LeBron’s groin injury, in terms of how they are releasing info about it. They’re saying he’ll be reevaluated week to week, but there’s a growing sense that KD has played his last game of the season and possibly for the Warriors.”
“The Lakers aren’t privy to KD’s injury details, but sounds like they are starting to operate under the assumption that his injury is too serious to pursue him in free agency this summer. The reasoning is, if the Lakers sign KD, the Lakers would not want to wait on KD to recover fully if the injury is indeed catastrophic and would require a chunk of next season of sitting out. LeBron doesn’t have much time left to play and it usually takes about a good year for a new newly assembled team to gel and win a championship. The Lakers feel if they are able to assemble a superteam this summer, they’ll still have a great chance to win it all, but understand it would still take some time to gel. Similar to LeBron, Wade and Bosh’s first year in Miami. They had the talent to make it to the Finals, but weren’t able to win it all. So that’s why they may be reluctant to make KD the main free agent target. The Lakers want to hit the ground running with a new and improved team and not wait for KD to recover fully from an injury. So essentially, they could be closing the door on KD, but will still be monitoring his situation.”
So what’s the alternative?
As of today, AD is the number 1 trade target and Kawhi Leonard is now the number one free agent target, I’m hearing.
Prior to the draft lottery, the overall sense in the Lakers front office was that they weren’t too optimistic in regards to acquiring AD this summer, especially how things were handled at the trade deadline.
As for Anthony Davis:
Demps told Magic this is what he wanted:
✅2019 unprotected FRP
✅2020 FRP swap
✅2021 unprotected FRP
✅2022 FRP swap
✅2023 unprotected FRP
✅2019 and 2021 2nd round picks
Lakers said: 👎🏽✌🏽✌🏽✌🏽✌🏽✌🏽✌🏽 pic.twitter.com/CM1guHqw28
— 👑 Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson (@ScoopB) February 6, 2019
However they were still going to pursue AD as their number one trade target.
“The Lakers feel more optimistic in a AD trade with the fourth pick, but know that the Pelicans still might not want to deal with us,” a source shared with me.
“The Pels won’t be as apprehensive to trade AD to the Lakers with Zion Williamson secured. Klutch is still pushing to get AD out of there. Kyrie’s looking like he’s on his way out of Boston works in the Lakers’ favor too. Having David Griffin as GM in New Orleans helps, especially with his affinity for Brandon Ingram.”
The Lakers also have other contingency plans.
Insert: Bradley Beal.
— Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson (@ScoopB) January 22, 2019
FS1’s Jason McIntyre suggested it on the Scoop B Radio Podcast earlier this year.
“Bradley Beal, by the way, I don’t know if people have been paying attention, as soon as John Wall goes down with yet another injury, Bradley Beal has been on fire,” he told me.
“Bradley Beal’s been torching people, I mean he is just killing, but the problem is: A. Who do you give up? And B. Would you be able to afford a free agent superstar like Jimmy Butler, like Kevin Durant, uh, whatever, uh, Klay who, I don’t think Klay’s leaving, but you got to toss him out there because he’s a free agent. So my guess is that LeBron looks around the roster, sees that Kuzma is playing out of his mind.”
Beal is someone that the Lakers internally discussed this year.
If the Lakers can’t get Bradley Beal, I’m told that they may “settle” with just signing a max player and keeping the youth:
Here are the scenarios that LA is considering:
1. Kawhi Leonard (max) and Anthony (trade)
2. Kawhi Leonard (max) and Bradley Beal (trade)
3. Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving (max) – Toronto would have to sign and trade Kawhi to us in this scenario
4. Kyrie Irving (max) and Anthony Davis (trade)