With the Los Angeles Lakers going full-speed ahead towards their “plan” of signing two max free agents in the summer of 2018, all eyes are turning towards how they can generate enough cap space to do so.
The Lakers are currently projected to have $35.1 million in cap room next summer, which isn’t enough to sign two max contracts. One of the most oft-discussed ways they can get more cap space is by moving Jordan Clarkson and the $12.5 million he’s slated to make during the 2018-19 season, which would get them to nearly $48 million in spending power.
That’s not quite enough for two max contracts either, but in conjunction with moving off of Julius Randle and Luol Deng, such a move would give the Lakers the means to sign their dream duo of LeBron James and Paul George.
There is no guarantee those two want to team up on the Lakers, but the mere chance of it (and the Lakers’ blatant thirst to bring in both of them) makes it a certainty Clarkson is going to hear his name in trade rumors for the foreseeable future. Clarkson told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register those rumors don’t phase him:
“The only thing I can worry about in terms of stuff like that and trade rumors is myself and continue to work,” Clarkson said. “If I were to be traded, I just have to be ready to play. But I’m here in L.A. and am ready for the season. I’m excited.”
Clarkson is obviously confident in himself, as evidenced by his adding that the Lakers want to make the playoffs this year, and he’s taking the right approach by not worrying (at least if he truly isn’t worried). That isn’t to say the Lakers will or won’t move him, but he’s right that he can’t do anything to influence that.
The numbers are the numbers, and it seems more likely Clarkson will be gone sooner rather than later as a simple matter of bookkeeping, even putting aside the fact that as a ball pounder who isn’t a great shooter, isn’t a next-level playmaker and doesn’t play a ton of defense he isn’t necessarily the best fit for the way the Lakers are trying to play under Luke Walton.
Still, Clarkson is showing professionalism if he really isn’t worrying about getting traded. And hey, as great philosopher Andrew Bynum once said, “there’s a bank in every city.”
Clarkson worked his way from No. 46 pick to $48 million dollar man, he already won. It’s just a matter of seeing where he continues his career after or during this season, because the space the Lakers are trying to generate makes it basically impossible to keep him. It sounds like no matter what happens, he’s ready to go with the flow.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.