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Lakers Mailbag: Keeping away from the Kyrie Irving chaos, trading Jordan Clarkson

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The NBA is waiting on Kyrie Irving to be traded, but the Lakers seem to be looking the other way entirely.

Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers likely wrapped up free agency when they signed second-round pick Thomas Bryant. The Lakers are expected to leave their 15th roster slot open heading into training camp after Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka had a free agency period best described as pragmatic, which was the plan from the outset.

Carmelo Anthony is still with the New York Knicks and Kyrie Irving the Cleveland Cavaliers, which remain as the two biggest stories left this summer. Anthony still has his eyes set on Houston, while it’s unclear who has the lead for landing Irving.

With that, let’s hit another round of questions, leading off with some Kyrie talk.

Please send in any and all Lakers questions to SSRmailbag@gmail.com!

Are you surprised the Lakers aren’t even mentioned near Kyrie Irving rumors?

I’m not surprised, but I think it’s notable that the Lakers don’t appear to be anywhere near the Kyrie situation in Cleveland. LA getting involved in trying to acquire Irving would send a message I don’t think the front office has any interest in.

For one, the Lakers are all-in on the Lonzo Ball movement. Pelinka was just on The Dan Patrick Show and essentially laid out why the team would have no interest in Irving

“I think in an era of guard-play where it’s score, if you look at the great point guards it’s score-score-score, I think we’re switching now into a mode of pass-pass-pass,” Pelinka said.

Perhaps more importantly, the Lakers’ free agency focus next summer is squarely on LeBron James by all accounts. What kind of message would courting Irving send Rich Paul and LeBron? Would Kyrie move the needle enough to even be worth trying to trade for? When considering the assets required to make that kind of move, it makes more sense for the Lakers to hang on to their young core and see how their 2018 master plan works out at this point.

The Lakers have stood pat — as they did when Paul George was traded for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some defensive upside — and continue on the path that gets them the best odds of signing LeBron next summer.

Will the Lakers trade Jordan Clarkson?

Clarkson might be playing a vital role for the Lakers next season. Considering the Lakers’ only backcourt signing was Tyler Ennis, there’s a fairly good chance Clarkson will be looked to to handle at least some backup guard duties.

This season looks like Clarkson’s full audition to be a sixth man akin to Lou Williams. JC’s clearest role based on his skillset is as a combo guard off the bench, and while the Lakers don’t want to ball-stop, he can create for himself while the “contagious” passing of Ball hopefully makes him a more-willing ball mover.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Clarkson’s $12.5 million in 2018-2019 , and $13.4 million in 2019-2020 has to make him a question mark going forward, though. The Lakers have been working toward creating as much salary cap space as possible and JC takes up a hefty chunk. As it stands, he’s the third-most expensive player the Lakers have on their books ($37.4 million over three seasons), behind Lonzo ($47.3 million including ‘21-22 qualifying offer) and Luol Deng ($53.9 million over the next three seasons).

It’ll be on Jordan to turn himself into a full-fledged sixth man. If he can do that, and the Lakers feel comfortable having him as their primary backup guard at both slots, there’s some merit to his value going forward. There’s no reason to count him out from having a good season yet.

Will Clarkson justify his place in the salary chart? Will Julius Randle’s new contract force him out? These are questions the Lakers will need to evaluate heading into the trade deadline next February.

Something I've been wondering throughout this whole Big Baller Brand thing: Have the Lakers at all looked into the construction of the shoes?

This is a question I’ve considered as well, and I don’t think we know much at all about the shoe itself. To my knowledge I don’t believe the first shipment of the shoes has gone out yet, which adds to reason to wonder about the quality and functionality of the shoe itself. Without any reviews from people stress testing them it’s hard to say.

Without knowing one way or the other, I also don’t think it’s fair to speculate too much about what the shoe is (or isn’t). I would imagine the training staff has to care to some degree about whether the shoe their franchise player wears is what’s best for him as an athlete, though.

Let’s keep in mind that both LaVar and Lonzo acknowledged that Ball wearing an assortment of shoes from major brands in Las Vegas was a calculated move. The message coming out of summer league was that the Ball family is still very open to a shoe deal, which may be a different conversation as Lonzo’s career appears to be on a strong trajectory.

Put on your tinfoil hats with me if you want, though. Perhaps concerns about the functionality of his shoes was even part of the reason Lonzo ditched the shoes for the remainder of summer league after straining his groin after the first two games. Maybe the need to consider other options in-game became more of a consideration after competing at a high level in them and not feeling great about they felt.

Or maybe not. It’ll be interesting to see what happens once preseason comes.

Where do you think Brook Lopez ranks on the front office’s max free agent list?

Lopez and the Lakers are in an interesting situation together. Brook’s been on the Brooklyn Nets his entire career, and now he’ll have the Lakers to use as his stage in a contract year. He also turns 30 next year, so he might be looking at one of his final big contracts.

It’s way too early to tell how high the Lakers are on him in their long-term plans, but getting an entire year (if he’s not traded at the deadline) to evaluate how a floor-spacing center fits on the team with the kind of offense they want works is already a major plus for the franchise.

When I look at Lopez, I look at a complementary player that can bring a lot of important things to the table from an offensive standpoint. He’s not a second banana, but as third-best player on a team, Brook makes a ton of sense. Am I crazy for thinking “A SUPERSTAR WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED” wouldn’t mind playing with a floor spacing big man like Lopez on the perimeter to kick out to?

Am I crazy for thinking that if he replicates the kind of season he had last year with the Nets, trying to pay a little less to keep Brook in Los Angeles makes more sense than trying to pay all of the money to the less-predictable DeMarcus Cousins?

Yeah, probably.

Thanks for checking out the SS&R mailbag! I answer 3-5 questions per week at a minimum, so get them in to SSRmailbag@gmail.com!