Landing LeBron James would be enough for just about any franchise in the NBA, but not the Los Angeles Lakers. He’ll head into next season with enough surrounding talent to compete for (and probably land) a playoff spot in a brutal Western Conference next year, but Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of their staff in the front office are looking ahead with their sights set on the cream of next offseason’s free agency crop.
You’ve heard the names by now. Kevin Durant might be looking elsewhere having seen firsthand that he’ll always be on Stephen Curry’s team. Jimmy Butler might eventually get sick of the TimberBulls reunion tour taking place in Minnesota. Oh and there’s also that Kawhi Leonard guy who forced his way out of San Antonio in the hopes of maybe playing in Los Angeles next year.
One name that’s flown under the radar to a large extent — despite a seamless fit and connections to the Lakers organization — is Klay Thompson, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN says his name has come up with those she’s spoken to in an appearance on “ESPNLA Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis”:
“In terms of who they target next year, it’s whoever wants to come. “My feeling about it, my sense from just talking to people in and around this (is that) one, it’s a little early, but I think they like Mychal’s boy. I think that would be the guy, in terms of skillset and how that would fit. Obviously Kawhi, he’s a great player as well, but we’ll see if he stays in Toronto now. But I think they like Klay (Thompson).”
That by itself might not seem like much, but it’s enough to make you go “Hmm...” considering the Lakers connection — Klay is the son of Lakers legend and local radio broadcaster Mychal Thompson — and that Luke Walton is on a trip with Thompson that Andre Iguodala (maybe jokingly) basically called tampering earlier this weekend.
Possible alleged shenanigans aside, Klay is in a pretty great situation and has only known one team for his entire career, so his departure feels unlikely. Shelburne actually agrees with this assessment.
“That would be an idea, but Klay to me feels like a Warrior for life if everything stays the same with what they’ve got going up there.”
What I find interesting is that the Lakers have been adamant about not surrounding James with one-dimensional, three-and-D role players and, compared to Leonard, Durant and Butler, that’s a little closer to what Thompson is. He might legitimately be one of the greatest ever to fulfill that role, but I find it noteworthy that the front office would maybe go this direction when that has very clearly not been what they’ve targeted since James originally signed.
The other benefit Thompson would offer is that — much like Durant — he subtracts from the team the Lakers are trying to catch as well as helping L.A. make up the difference. Never let it be said that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka aren’t a little cutthroat should either of those signings come to pass.
I think Shelburne’s very first point is the one to really remember here, though. There isn’t really a wrong answer when you’re throwing around names like Durant, Leonard and Thompson. The Lakers would be in an absolutely phenomenal spot if any one of the guys listed above signed next summer, no matter who they may or may not prefer.
We’ll see how this all plays out, but get ready for a seemingly endlessly flow of speculation and rumors swirling around how the Lakers might use the immense cap space they worked so hard to open up. Somewhere in there, basketball will also be played. Reportedly.