Lakers Rumors: Insiders Think Top NBA Free Agents Will Snub LAL Like Paul George

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2019

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Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George's decision to spurn the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 free agency is reportedly expected to become a trend in NBA circles.

According to Bill Oram of The Athletic, "most league insiders" believe the biggest free agents during the 2019 offseason will bypass the Lakers and sign elsewhere.

Despite signing LeBron James last offseason, the Lakers are 11th in the Western Conference with a disappointing 31-40 record. L.A. is clearly in need of another superstar to pair with James, but Oram's report suggests the Lakers may have to trade for someone like New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis to make it happen.

There could be some big-time players available on the open market this offseason, and there is little doubt that Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson will be in hot pursuit of them.

Depending on whether or not player options are exercised in some cases, the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Khris Middleton, Nikola Vucevic, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard can all hit the open market.

Many of those players could be precisely what the Lakers need to be playoff contenders, especially Thompson or Leonard, who have strong L.A. ties.

Both were born in or around Los Angeles and are NBA champions and multiple-time All-Stars. They are among the NBA's best all-around players as well, and they would provide James with the running mate he so desperately needs.

It was once considered a foregone conclusion that George would end up with the Lakers since he is a Palmdale, California, native who reportedly wasn't shy about his desire to one day play for the Lakers while he was a member of the Indiana Pacers.

The Thunder made an aggressive move by trading for George a year away from his free agency, and he enjoyed his one season in OKC so much that he signed a long-term deal with the Thunder last offseason without even having meeting the Lakers.

That decision essentially forced Los Angeles to fill the roster with role players around James and youngsters Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.

In a perfect world, the Lakers will keep their young core in place around James and add another star in free agency without having to give anything up. If Oram's report is accurate, L.A. may not have that luxury despite once being considered the NBA's ideal free-agent destination.

Failing to get a star during the offseason could result in the Lakers squandering James' remaining years as an elite player, which is why Johnson may be forced to ship a king's random to New Orleans for Davis, although not even that is a guarantee since teams such as the Boston Celtics may be able to offer more.