As soon as Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers convinced LeBron James to take his talents to Venice Beach, the search for his second star began. The typical names obviously come to mind (hi there, Kevin Durant!), but the Lakers will have quite the selection to choose from.
And while he might not come with all the fanfare others might, Khris Middleton would fit absolutely perfectly next to James and whatever roster the Lakers might enter next season with. According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Lakers (and other teams) seem to agree with that assessment.
There will be opportunities to explore — both the Lakers and Clippers, sources say, will have interest in Middleton, and he’ll have options with rebuilding teams such as New York, Dallas and Cleveland. Either way, Middleton will get something around a five-year, $190 million deal from Milwaukee, or a four-year, $140 million contract to sign elsewhere.
With the amounts of money teams are going to be throwing around next summer and the kinds of names the Lakers are going to pursue, that Middleton makes just a little less than other potential max-level signees makes him even more intriguing than his skillset does in a vacuum.
Middleton is the stereotypical three-and-d type player. Now, it’s fair to wonder whether it makes sense to pay max-level money to someone who would play a semi-limited role given other potential options the Lakers might have, but the hope here would be that Middleton grows into something beyond just that.
All this said, if Middleton was the lone pull from next year’s free agency period, it would be hard not to be slightly disappointed by the haul. Middleton is a fantastic player and capable of being a part of a winner just about anywhere he winds up, but he isn’t who Magic had in mind when he said he was going to bring the Lakers “back back” this summer.
Middleton would be great as a third key part, but especially as James heads into a later chapter of his career, whoever the Lakers add has to be ready to step into a larger role over the length of that contract. It’s hard to see Middleton fulfilling that need, and at the money he’ll likely command, it would be harder for the Lakers to add that type of player.
Still, the Lakers’ reported interest in Middleton highlights how many options they’ll have, and that they have their work cut out for them if they want to get the top ones.