The 2019 NBA offseason is going to be a pivotal one for the Los Angeles Lakers—perhaps even more so than the 2018 equivalent.
Yes, that was when the Lakers added LeBron James. However, as this past year has shown, not even James can lift Los Angeles into the top tier of Western Conference teams by himself. The Lakers likely would have been a playoff team if James hadn't missed significant time with a groin injury—they were fourth in the conference when he went down—but it will take a couple more significant pieces to make L.A. a legit contender.
This is why the 2019 offseason—and the coinciding quest for those pieces—is so important.
Armed with the fourth overall pick in the draft and some intriguing young players, the Lakers have options. Trading for a top-tier talent like the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis is ideal, but that is far from the only option.
Let's take a look at some of the latest Lakers buzz as the offseason draws nearer.
Lonzo Ball and Bradley Beal
The list of aforementioned young players includes Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Ball, in particular, appears to be a player the Lakers could leverage in a trade.
"People just don't grasp how good he is," an unnamed source said of Ball, per Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington.
By moving Ball, the Lakers could add a player like Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
Washington could move Beal, who has been linked to Los Angeles. According to Standig, Ball is the player the Wizards would want in return for him. But why would the Lakers want to give up a promising young player for a guy the Wizards are willing to deal?
The first reason is that Beal is a fairly consistent shooter—something Ball is not, and something James desperately needs around him. Beal shot 47.5 percent from the floor and 80.8 percent from the free-throw line. Ball shot 40.6 percent from the field and just 41.7 percent from the line.
Beal is also a leader, a guy who—along with James—can help mold some of the young talent on the roster.
"My takeaway is how he handles everything," Wizards center Thomas Bryant said of Beal, per Standig. "He's always been the leader on this team."
Los Angeles needs more veteran leadership on the court. Beal can provide that; Ball cannot.
Ball and Draft Picks
If the Lakers cannot land a veteran like Beal by moving Ball, they may have the option of swapping him for draft picks. According to Fox Sports 1's Jason McIntyre, both the Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls have discussed trading their lottery picks for Ball.
Phoenix holds the sixth overall pick in the draft. Chicago holds the seventh.
This doesn't seem as appealing a route as trading Ball for a veteran. The Lakers would essentially be trading one promising young player for another—one with less experience. However, if new head coach Frank Vogel believes there's a better fit for the roster than Ball in the draft, then dealing him for a selection does make some sense.
The unknown is which player might be available with the sixth or seventh pick and whom the Lakers are high on.
Potential Draft Targets
Assuming the Lakers don't deal their own lottery pick, there are two players the team appears to covet at No. 4: Vanderbilt's Darius Garland and Virginia's De'Andre Hunter.
Either of these players would make sense for the Lakers. Garland is a tremendous shooter who could instantly become a favorite kick-out option for James. Hunter is a strong two-way player who would boost the play at both ends of the court.
Los Angeles may also give strong consideration to Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver. He's another two-way player and was recently part of the Lakers' first official pre-draft visit.
This is where things could get interesting with Ball during the draft. If Garland, Hunter and Culver are all on the board when the Lakers pick at four, trading Ball to the Suns could guarantee that Los Angeles gets two of them.
A lot will hinge on what the New York Knicks do at No. 3. According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, they are at least considering taking Culver over Duke's RJ Barrett at three. If they do, then Barrett would be there for the Lakers' taking.
Whatever happens, there's a good chance that the Lakers roster looks quite a bit different before free agency officially kicks off on July 1.