After a disappointing 2018-19, the Los Angeles Lakers are heading into the offseason with more than enough assets – in the form of cap space, draft capital and high-upside young pieces – to make major improvements next season. Even if Los Angeles misses on major targets and opts to just improve internally, though, the Lakers should be much better equipped to make noise in 2019-20. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma flashed real improvement over the past year, putting up occasional All-Star numbers, and Lonzo Ball proved his importance when his injury-related absence essentially tanked L.A.’s season.
Of course, success for the Lakers this offseason will be defined as landing a second, and maybe even third, star to place around LeBron James. They would still probably be a playoff-caliber team if they maintain the status quo and add some shooting over the summer, but their ceiling could be much higher than that, and they will only approach that ceiling if they add more star power by flipping assets and using cap space.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
LeBron James: $37,436,858
Lonzo Ball: $8,719,320
Brandon Ingram: $7,265,485
Moritz Wagner: $2,066,040
Kyle Kuzma: $1,974,600
Josh Hart: $1,934,160
Isaac Bonga: $1,416,852
Land an elite piece to place next to James. Most of the Lakers’ overblown problems could go away if the team’s front office finally manages to find that second star to help take at least some of the nightly load off of James. Besides that, the continued development of Los Angeles’ young core will be vital, as Ball, Ingram and Kuzma all showed glimpses of improvement this season, but they still have a ways to go to reach their uber high ceilings.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENCY TARGETS
Kyrie Irving: James and Irving have publicly flirted at different points this season, leading many to wonder if a potential reunion is possible. If Irving does leave the Boston Celtics, most of the smoke suggests he could be headed to the Big Apple, but the Lakers can’t be totally ruled out.
Klay Thompson: The common belief is that Thompson will return to the Golden State Warriors without a problem if they offer him a max deal. If they don’t, things could get dicey. And that’s where the Lakers, who still employ Thompson’s father, could enter the picture.
Kawhi Leonard: He may not have the personality of a typical Lakers star, but Leonard is so good that it shouldn’t matter. Leonard was interested in joining one of the two Los Angeles franchises back when he first requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs, so seeing the Lakers try to get back into the mix with him as a free agent wouldn’t be remotely surprising.
Jimmy Butler: Butler has an affinity for Los Angeles, and his standing with the Philadelphia 76ers isn’t perfectly settled, so the Lakers could sneak in and swoop him away this summer.
DeMarcus Cousins: On a short-term, high-money deal, Cousins would make a lot of sense for a Lakers team that lacks star power and frontcourt depth.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
Anthony Davis: It’s pretty clear who the Lakers’ top target will be this offseason. Los Angeles went hard after Davis at the deadline, only to be spurned publicly by then-still-employed Dell Demps. But with a new front office in place in New Orleans, could talks between the two teams occur in more good faith, leading to a potential deal?
Bradley Beal: The Washington Wizards seem adamant about not trading Beal, but he would make a lot of sense as a Lakers target if they strike out in free agency.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
The Lakers have a first-round pick for 2019, with lottery odds giving them the highest chance of landing the No. 10 selection, but they have no second-round picks.