The Los Angeles Lakers trade discussions with the Indiana Pacers over All-Star Paul George seem to have stalled, at least in part likely because Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle appear to not have much value around the league.
So with those two not fetching that much, and Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball as close to untouchable as possible after the Lakers shipped their other No. 2 pick, D’Angelo Russell, to Brooklyn, it seems more likely than not that the Lakers will be quiet on the trade front moving forward.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson seemed to confirm as much during Ball’s introductory press conference Friday.
“Are the Lakers close to another deal? No, not right now,” Johnson told Mark Medina of the Southern California News Group. “Of course we’ll look into improving the team in any way we can. But not right now.”
The only problem with the Lakers standing pat is how stuffed their roster is heading into free agency. As it stands right now, if the Lakers sign all four of their draft picks they’ll have 14 players under contract.
The team could easily shed two with Tarik Black’s salary not yet guaranteed for next season and David Nwaba’s 17-18 salary being a team option the Lakers have to decide on this week, but even if the Lakers moved on from both of those players they would only have a maximum of three roster spots to sign free agents to regular NBA deals, with two more two-way contracts as well.
The team’s logjam is especially heavy in the front court, where they just drafted Kuzma but also have Larry Nance, Jr. and Randle, with Luol Deng also needing to play the four to be effective and Brandon Ingram warranting some time there as well.
And as Lakers blogging godfather Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold points out, the Lakers have a ton of youth on their roster too, with 11 players under 25 years old with three or fewer years in the NBA under their belts.
All this is to say: that’s a ton of relatively inexperienced players to go into the season with if the Lakers are hoping to make a dramatic jump forward in the standings. The Lakers have no incentive to tank, given that their 2018 first round pick goes to the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers depending on where it lands. It’s also clear this new front office regime wants nothing to do with being as bad as the team was last year again.
With all of that in mind, it’s hard not to see the team making another move at some point. Maybe George is the other shoe to drop, or maybe it’s another move. Whatever the case, while Johnson is saying no deals are “close,” it’s also hard to feel like some kind of move is that far away.