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Lakers Mailbag: 2018 NBA Draft prospects, free agency, and Kawhi Leonard

Here’s the mail, it never fails.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of NBA playoff games are nearing a close and with each series conclusion, the real offseason gets that much closer for teams watching the postseason from home like the Los Angeles Lakers.

It seems as though every summer is going be the summer the Lakers finally turn it around, but there’s reason to be optimistic this time around with a revamped front office, a core group of promising young players and one of the more flexible payrolls in the NBA.

In preparation for the summer, I asked some of you to send in your questions about everything Lakers and of course, you guys obliged. Here are a few answers to those questions in our latest Silver Screen and Roll mailbag. Enjoy!

What position do you think the Lakers should target in the draft and why?

Where the Lakers are picking in the first round (No. 25 overall), they’re going to take the best player available regardless of position. With the exception of maybe the power forward position, there is no area the Lakers have an embarrassment of riches. That being said, I’d like to see them target a point guard.

After trading Jordan Clarkson for Isaiah Thomas, who will hit unrestricted free agency this summer, the Lakers currently have no one under contract to play backup to Lonzo Ball next season. Tyler Ennis is technically under contract, but his salary is non-guaranteed and ideally he wouldn’t be the Lakers’ best option at point guard after Ball.

Any time the second-best point guard on your roster is Tyler Ennis, you’re in a bad spot.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers have been linked to UCLA’s Aaron Holiday and USC’s De’Anthony Melton in the most recent round of mock drafts and both players would be welcome additions to the team. However, there are expected to be a number of intriguing point guard prospects available when the Lakers are on the clock, including Shake Milton, Jalen Brunson, Landry Shamet and, my personal favorite, Elie Okobo.

What is your best case/worse case scenario for the Lakers this summer?

The best case scenario is the one that involves Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Lakers for the veterans minimum. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen.

Realistically, the best case scenario for the summer would be, in no particular order:

  • Signing at least one All-Star or All-Star level free agent
  • Keeping the core group of young players together, including Julius Randle
  • Filling out the bench with one-year, above the market deals to maintain financial flexibilty.
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Would two max players be nice? Sure, but I believe there’s something to be said about continuity and team building. If these playoffs have taught us anything so far, it’s that it doesn’t matter who has the biggest names on their roster (see: OKC). More often than not, the best team is going to be the team that knows each other the best, from top to bottom.

Re-signing Julius Randle would be a step in the right direction and re-signing Randle might be enough to lure Paul George to Los Angeles via their shared agent, Aaron Mintz.

The worst case scenario would be handing out long-term, big money contracts to second or third-tier free agents and/or bringing back Tyler Ennis for a second season.

Any restricted free agent you think the Lakers should throw money at?

I won’t touch too much on this because our own Ben Rosales has something cooking on this same topic, but I will say the Lakers can be big players in restricted free agency if they don’t land any of their initial targets. The question is, who’s available and for how much?

Jabari Parker, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, could probably be had for the right price, but Parker has already had two major knee injuries at the young age of 23 years old. While I’m sure everyone in the NBA is pulling for Parker to have a long and healthy career, the risk is far too great for the Lakers to take.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

They should, however, test the waters with players Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela. The latter would be somewhat redundant if the Lakers brought back Julius Randle, but imagine a frontcourt with Kuzma and Capela or Randle and Gordon.

Elite? Maybe not. A ton of fun? Hell yeah.

Will the Lakers trade Luol Deng?

The Lakers won’t do anything with Luol Deng until they absolutely have to. As unfortunate and strange as his situation is with the team, he is under contract for two more seasons and there’s almost nothing he can do about it.

A year from now, Deng will only have one year and $18.8 million owed on his contract. Suddenly the albatross that is his contract becomes a valuable trade chip for teams looking to get out of long -term deals (hello, Miami). He becomes even more valuable if the Lakers see his contract out, opening over $18 million in cap space for 2020.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If the Lakers find themselves in a position where they can sign two max players and keep one of their own free agents, I imagine the front office would be more willing to part ways with future draft considerations. However, until then, Deng is stuck in Los Angeles. Poor guy.

Do you think the Lakers will make a move for Kawhi Leonard?

I think they will do their due diligence, but so will 28 other teams in the league and they probably have a better shot at him than the Lakers do.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reportedly doesn’t want to grant Leonard his alleged wish of playing for his hometown Lakers and while Pop isn’t the general manager, I’d be surprised if his opinion didn’t hold some weight in the organization.

Aside from that, there are a number of teams that could use Leonard and some of those teams, like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, can put together packages containing higher picks and more proven prospects than what the Lakers can offer.

NBA: Orlando Magic at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

If Leonard’s dream truly is to retire in the purple and gold, that’s something the Spurs and teams trading for him are going to have to take into consideration. As for the Lakers, they might have no choice but to wait and see how this plays out this summer.

For follow up questions, feel free to reach out to Christian on Twitter @RadRivas.

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