Lakers Rumors: Latest Trade Talk, Free Agency and Pre-Draft Buzz for Los Angeles

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 20, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers will be at the forefront of some discussions at Thursday's NBA draft, but it will not be because of their decision with a high lottery pick. 

The Lakers moved out of the lottery when they agreed to trade for Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday. 

Now the task for the Lakers is to clear up cap space in order to open up a max salary spot for free agency. 

ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks reported the Lakers are scrambling to change the parameters of the Davis deal in order to create over $32 million in cap space. 

In order to open up cap space, the Lakers are trying to engage teams on deals for Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones, who are three of five players currently under contract with the Lakers. LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma are the others. 

The Lakers are also exploring the purchase of second-round picks in order to acquire cheap talent to fill out the back end of their roster. 

The ESPN report stated teams are allowed to spend as much as $5.2 million to buy draft picks in a year, but the Lakers can only use $3.7 million in a trade because they spent $1.5 million when they acquired Bonga in July. 

While the immediate focus of the franchise is finding a way to financially maneuver around any possible constraints, there are plenty of rumors flying about the potential free agents that could sign with the franchise. 

Once the Davis trade was finalized, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Kemba Walker will be a top target in free agency for the Lakers. 

According to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, the Lakers are expected to pursue Kawhi Leonard as well in free agency.

However, in order to sign another top-tier free agent, the Lakers have to wait until July 6 to officially complete the Davis deal. Then they would have the $32.7 million available to sign Walker, Leonard or another max free agent. 

While the ideal free-agent haul involves another maximum-salary player, the Lakers have been linked with a handful of other players over the last week as the market begins to take shape. 

O'Connor reported both Los Angeles teams have interest in Al Horford, who is moving on from the Boston Celtics, but Dallas is the favorite to sign him at the moment. 

According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, the Lakers are one of a few teams interested in Bobby Portis, who finished the 2018-19 season with the Washington Wizards. 

In order for the Lakers to establish themselves as the favorite to win the Western Conference, they need to have a complete roster and not just rely on James, Davis, Kuzma and another star free agent to lead them to the NBA Finals. 

While the majority of the offensive production will come from those spots, the Lakers still need depth, which is why players like Portis and second-round picks will be more valuable as the summer progresses. 

The depth is also important to match up against other Western Conference foes like Houston, Portland, Utah and Golden State, to name a few. 

Utah just got better Wednesday with the addition of Mike Conley in a trade with Memphis, but it let go of three players and draft picks to make that happen. 

The price to climb up the Western Conference ladder will be steep for every team looking to take over for the Warriors, but with Golden State perceived to be weaker next season because of injuries, now is the time for the Lakers and others to step up in free agency and ascend to the mountaintop. 


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