Written by: Ant.B
For months Laker fans agonized about whether they would even have a top pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA. A five game winning streak in April threatened to ruin any chance at a top 3 pick and potentially star player. Luckily for the Lakers on lottery night their doomsday scenario did not come true and for the third straight year they received the number two pick in the NBA draft.
For the last three months it has appeared that Lonzo Ball has seemed destined to be a LA Laker. He is from Chino Hills, played at UCLA and has even stated that he would love to be a Laker. Often labeled as a true, pass first point guard Lonzo would be inserted into the starting point guard spot. Lonzo has made his desire to be a Laker even more clear by refusing to work out for the Boston Celtics, who have the number one pick in the draft. Lonzo has scheduled only one workout session and that will take place on June 7th with the Los Angeles Lakers.
This leaves a lot of questions marks into what D’Angelo Russels role would be. Late in the season Russel was moved to the two guard spot. Whether this was just an experiment to test his versatility or anticipating Lonzo Ball’s arrival, D’Angelo proved to be capable of playing off the ball. Lonzo Ball led the nation in assist and broke the UCLA record for assist in a single season. Ball is determined to make those around him better and has superior court vision which is why many think his style of play can lead to an updated version of showtime with him running the point.
The true question that has many fans divided is whether or not to trade for Paul George. George had made it very clear that he wants to play for the Lakers. He will be a free agent at the start of the 2018 season and could just simply sign as a free agent without the Lakers giving up any assets. The issue with this scenario is that a team like the Celtics could also trade for him and he may end up signing with the team long term.
The Celtics are coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance that saw them lose in 5 games. While Cleveland proved to be on another level than the Celtics, Boston has the number one pick in the upcoming draft and likely will have another top 5 pick next year. The Celtics clearly have the upper hand in the situation and many believe a player like George can put them over the top in the East.
One player that may keep George away from the Celtics is Gordon Hayward. Gordon Hayward can sign as a free agent this summer with the Celtics, which would allow them to keep all of their current players, as well as their picks. Hayward would take some of the pressure off Isiah Thomas and give them another player who could create their own shot, something that was a glaring issue in the Cleveland series. Hayward to the Celtics would end the Paul George rumors for Boston, and effectively put the Lakers as the front runners to land Paul George.
Should the Lakers trade for George they most likely package would include D’Angelo Russell, one of either Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle and their 28th pick in the draft. As a fan of the team I feel any deal that would include Brandon Ingram or the upcoming pick would not be worth the return. While Paul George is a great player and arguably one of the top 10 players in the NBA, we have yet to truly see what Brandon Ingram can become and the likely pick Lonzo Ball hasn’t even played an NBA game yet.
In the case with both Russell and Randle we have seen them play for two full seasons and while the jury may still be out, neither one seems to be a franchise changing player or at the very least possess the potential to be on the level of a Paul George. Not only does George being on the team next season mean an improvement in play, it also means that the Lakers will have a clear cut star player that other free agents want to team up with. This is something that the Lakers haven’t had in the last 3-4 years.
George to the Lakers would represent the start of the new Magic Johnson era in Lakerland, with Ball ushering in the 2017 version of showtime. Laker fans have waited years to have a team that is competitive and could challenge for a playoff spot. This upcoming summer may be the most important in franchise history if they want to achieve that.