It is pretty safe to say that the Los Angeles Lakers are swinging for the fences heading into the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20 and free agency on June 30.
Just days ago, the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis in order to pair him with LeBron James. James and Davis — widely considered two of the top-five players — will cause absolute havoc for opposing teams as their skillsets match almost perfectly.
While acquiring Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans was a definite win, they had to gut their roster to do so. Right now, the Lakers only have five players under contract: James, Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner, and Isaac Bonga.
The Lakers are noticeably lacking some sort of defensive presence on the perimeter. While James — whose defensive prowess took a noticeable hit during the 2018-19 NBA season — is still capable of guarding ballhandlers at an above-average level, the Lakers would like to have a more steady, consistent perimeter defender. Not only that, but they will need another source of offense outside of their dynamic duo if they hope to compete for a championship soon.
“If it were to go through before July 6, the Lakers wouldn’t be able to create the $32.7 million necessary to sign Walker or another max free agent, such as Kawhi Leonard, who league sources say the Lakers will pursue.”
Leonard is fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship where he also managed to be crowned Finals MVP. At only 27-years old, Leonard has an extremely impressive resumé which includes three All-Star appearances, two NBA championships, two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, two Finals MVP awards and a slew of All-NBA and All-Defensive team honors.
Now of course, the most important factor when it comes to the Lakers having enough cap space to sign Leonard is the date of which the Davis trade is completed. The only way in which the Lakers will have enough cap space to sign Leonard or any other max free agent is if the Pelicans agree to complete the trade 30 days after the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft signs his contract.
If not, the Lakers will be stuck somewhere between $23-27 million — depending on whether Davis waives his $4 million trade kicker to sign free agents. For now, the Lakers will continue to hold their breath hoping that somehow they can convince the Pelicans to do them an NBA championship sized favor and wait.