After five seasons of rebuilding through the NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers have had opportunities to trade their young core for an All-Star player.
Since LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million deal in free agency, there have been debates about winning now versus sustainable success. For president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka, they have opted for the latter so far.
As Paul George re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors, Jimmy Butler was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike George and Leonard, the Lakers did not have the contracts to make an offer for Butler as newly-signed players cannot be traded until Dec. 15.
While it was initially unclear when the Timberwolves would trade Butler, Brandon Ingram was mentioned in trade discussions, according to Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective as transcribed by Matthew Moreno of Lakers Nation:
“The question is this, is Brandon Ingram more valuable for the Lakers as LeBron’s teammate or as a trade chip? … I know that they were floating him in at least one trade for — I’ll just go ahead and say it, that he was brought up in the Jimmy Butler stuff.”
While Johnson and Pelinka have created $38 million in cap space for 2019 free agency, they have and will continue to make difficult decisions. Along with Leonard and Butler, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are also reportedly expected to re-sign with their respective teams or sign elsewhere.
After a 2-5 start to the 2018-19 NBA season, the Lakers have won 12 out of their last 16 games. With James believing the young core is ‘getting better every game,’ Los Angeles may very well take their chances in free agency instead of trading them.
Although there have been reports about Bradley Beal, the only potential trade that makes sense at this point is Anthony Davis, who ‘stands atop’ the team’s wish list. With two-years, $53 million remaining on his contract, Davis provides the perfect balance between winning now versus sustainable success.