The Los Angeles Lakers may have agreed to terms on a trade to acquire Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, but they aren’t done yet. According to multiple reports, the team still has big plans for free agency, plans that could include names like Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker or Jimmy Butler.
There is no scenario where the Lakers can acquire all three, obviously, but they do appear to have plans to pursue all of them and see who comes, with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports being the latest to link L.A. with Butler and Walker:
With James and Davis as the cornerstones of the franchise, the Lakers still have room to add one more star in free agency.
Charlotte guard Kemba Walker and Philadelphia forward Jimmy Butler are top priorities, sources said.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard of the Laker’s interest in Walker in the aftermath of the Davis trade, as he was almost immediately reported as a top target for the team. There have also been rumblings of the team’s interest in Butler for a while, and increasing smoke about Kyrie Irving as well. It’s almost like the Lakers — a basketball team — wants to sign good basketball players! Or something.
They actually also may want one of the best basketball players in the world, as according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the team is planning to pursue new NBA champion Kawhi Leonard as well:
To even have a shot at Walker—or any other pricey free agent—the Lakers will have to wait to officially complete this deal. If it were to go through before July 6, the Lakers wouldn’t be able to create the $32.7 million necessary to sign Walker or another max free agent, such as Kawhi Leonard, who league sources say the Lakers will pursue.
Before we get to anything else, we should address that these are two different reporters saying these things, so one saying that Walker and Butler are “top priorities” does not mean that Leonard isn’t up there just because another reporter didn’t use the same phrasing. Common sense dictates that the Lakers would like to sign Leonard at least as much as the other two, and likely more.
With that out of the way, the cap concerns O’Connor mentions are a real factor here. Depending on when the Lakers make this deal, they could have anywhere ranging from $32.5 million in cap space (just about enough to offer any player a max contract) to $23.7 million, which is significantly less than the max. If the team waits until the end of July to complete the deal, they could have the former number. If the trade for Davis is completed on July 6 (the first day it legally can be), then it would be closer to the latter number — with a chance to rise to around $27 million if Davis waives his trade kicker.
The problem? It doesn’t look like any of that is going to happen, as reports paint Davis as unlikely to waive the kicker — something that theoretically could change if the Lakers show him they could sign someone with that money — while the Pelicans are not planning to hold off on completion of the trade, leaving the Lakers well short of the max in free agency, all of which cap expert Jeff Siegel of earlybirdrights.com and I discussed at length in the latest episode of the Silver Screen and Roll Podcast.
The Lakers aren’t getting any of the guys listed above for $23.7 million in cap space, and probably not even for around the $27 million-ish that they could have if Davis waived his bonus. They just aren’t.
If the team can get the Pelicans to hold off on making the trade official — something that would likely cost them an extra asset, as Pelicans executive David Griffin isn’t likely to help the Lakers create a sustainable superteam that affects the value of the future picks he just got from them for free, if at all — then maybe the Lakers can still manage to woo one of these guys. Maybe LeBron James offers them enough money to co-star in “Space Jam 2” that they’re willing to take a haircut off of their full max. But right now all of that seems unlikely, and as things stand the Lakers will probably be aiming much lower than the starry names in this headline to surround James and Davis in free agency.