Lakers take home-run swing at trade deadline, open door for LeBron James, Paul George
I don’t know if whether I’m going to LA, or what I’m going to do this offseason. But I can say I am happy about being here. I’m happy with playing with Russ, happy with playing with Melo, and this organization. This front office has shown what they can do to go get pieces and how active they are about winning.
The work is just beginning for Magic and the Lakers. Their young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma needs to keep improving this season, as that hope for the future will make Los Angeles a desirable destination for free agents in 2018 and beyond.
Of course, the reality is that nothing has changed for the Lakers heading into Thursday’s trade deadline. No matter when they are able to land a major player in free agency, they still have to contend with two years (after this one) of Luol Deng at $37 million and Jordan Clarkson at $26 million. No one is taking on Deng, and Clarkson could still be had for an expiring contract and a draft pick. The market for him as been limited, though, and if he can’t be moved, LA can’t give out two max deals. And there is still the possibility of moving Julius Randle along before he hits restricted free agency.
Boston’s switch-heavy defensive system fits Randle’s skill set, and another big man would help the Celtics’ second unit (as well as other lineups). In addition, Ainge could see Randle and/or Hood as likely victims of a narrow restricted market like Smart, meaning the team holds some potential of securing their services at a reasonable price moving forward, and those players’ presumably higher salaries than McDermott or the others means easier matching salary in that potential trade whenever the opportunity presents itself.
It would also be possible to do a modified version of this with a pending unrestricted free agent using full or early Bird rights, but an unrestricted free agent’s ability to go where he wants makes it much harder to secure a team-friendly contract. As such, a member of that 2014 draft class makes the most sense.
Acquiring a player with the intention of making him essentially a human trade exception in the future is not exactly a common path, but Ainge and the Celtics have the unique circumstances and incentives to make that bold step worth it.