The Los Angeles Lakers love their stars. Even when the team was struggling to string together a 30-win season, they remained aggressive in their pursuit of a big name free agent and in 2018, they finally signed one in LeBron James.
What’s easy to forget, though, is that the Lakers didn’t just clear up enough cap space to sign James in 2018; they also made sure they had enough cap space to sign a co-star for James like Paul George. George ultimately re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the message from the Lakers’ front office was clear: they wanted to build the next super team.
The Lakers got closer to their goal when they made the blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis in 2019, but they couldn’t recruit another star to complete their “big three.” The duo of Davis and James was enough to bring the Lakers their first championship since 2010, but that doesn’t mean the front office has given up hope on recruiting a third star.
In a recent appearance on ESPN’s “The Woj Pod,” Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager, said that he’s hoping to add a star player to play alongside James and Davis sooner rather than later (h/t Donny McHenry of Lakers Outsiders):
“We do want to do a couple things. We hope that we can have another championship run next year, for sure, and we’re going to work hard to try to keep the pieces around LeBron and AD, build pieces around LeBron and AD to do that. But also, with the future, again, if you study our cap (space) we have the flexibility to say, ‘Can we add another really, really talented young player to run it out with AD if he chooses to stay as a free agent for five, six, seven, eight years?’”
Ideally, the Lakers would be able to build on their momentum and sign a star free agent this summer, but that’s probably not going to happen for a few reasons. The first, and most important, reason is that they already have roughly $63 million in salary committed for the 2020-21 season, and that doesn’t include Davis’ new contract or the player options for Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee.
The second reason is that there won’t be many superstar free agents on the market this offseason. The same won’t be true in the summer of 2021, when the cap is expected to jump to $125 million and the Lakers are expected to have just two players under contract: James and Davis.
The amount of cap room they’ll have next summer might change before then, whether that’s because of projections lowering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic or the Lakers rewarding some of their own free agents, but when you consider that Pelinka already has his eyes set on 2021, it’s safe to assume they’ll have at least one spot for a max-level free agent. Get those jersey swaps ready, everyone.