The 2018 NBA Draft is days away and the Los Angeles Lakers will have another opportunity to add to the team’s young core with the No. 25 and 47 picks. While continuing the rebuilding process remains an option, free agency could turn them into instant championship contenders.
As Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants out from the San Antonio Spurs and LeBron James is expected to take time with his decision, there are conflicting reports about Paul George.
George, who has been linked with the Lakers for the past year, was traded by the Indian Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder prior to the 2017-18 season. The 28-year-old averaged 21.9 points and 5.7 rebounds alongside Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz.
According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, George and his family may be viewing free agency from different scopes:
“Folks are not so sure Paul George is coming to L.A. From what I’m being told, Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to back up the Brinks truck for Paul George. They’re going to offer him the max (contract). Because they’re going to offer him the max, combined with the fact that Russell Westbrook shows him a lot of love and they seem to get along pretty well, and they’ve got a future together, Paul George is a sentimental type. And as a result, it’s going to be hard for him to pull away from that relationship with Russell Westbrook. Here’s the problem: the wife would rather be in L.A. Paul George’s parents, from what I’m told, would rather him be in L.A.”
Although George wanting to play for the Lakers ultimately forced the Pacers to trade him, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka decided not to part with the team’s young core and wait for free agency instead.
As a result, it provided the Thunder a full season to build a good relationship with George in hopes of re-signing him to a long-term deal. They seem to have made a lasting impression, as George has often raved about the Thunder organization.
With all the talk about the Lakers potentially forming a big three of their own, it is important to temper expectations. If Los Angeles does not land two or three All-Star players this offseason, developing the young core and adding around them is still a solid plan for the storied franchise.
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