The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to pursue a trade for Paul George and will be leading contenders for Carmelo Anthony's services, should Anthony secure an offseason buyout from the New York Knicks, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that the Cavaliers engaged in serious three-way trade discussions leading up to the NBA draft on a deal that would have brought them George from the Indiana Pacers and landed Kevin Love, George's fellow Eastern Conference All-Star, with the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets were recruited into the talks to furnish the Pacers with the combination of promising young players and draft picks that they are seeking before consenting to surrender George, whose agent, Aaron Mintz, informed Indiana management just over a week ago that George has no intention of staying with the club beyond the expiration of his current contract in June 2018.
The Los Angeles Lakers won their most recent NBA title in 2010, but the seven years since that championship have felt much longer for many fans of the purple and gold considering the team has experienced several of the worst seasons in franchise history during that time.
As the Lakers attempt to rebuild and return to past glory, there are various angles from which to analyze their future plans.
Lakers preparing for the summer of 2018
Los Angeles as presently constructed could have up to a projected $48 million in salary-cap space next summer. That number doesn’t include forward Julius Randle, whose cap hold of $12.4 million would eat into the Lakers' space if he’s still on the roster. There will also be other transactions between now and next summer, and the 2018-19 salary cap projection of $102 million could change as well.
- While it’s likely that the Lakers continue their pursuit of trading for Paul George, don’t expect them to make a significant splash in free agency in the coming weeks. Los Angeles currently has $18 million in projected cap space this summer. And if the D’Angelo Russell/Timofey Mozgov trade before the draft was any indication, Los Angeles might avoid signing players to contracts that include guaranteed money past this upcoming season.
- More likely, the Lakers could use their cap space this summer to sign players to one-year deals or two-year deals with a team option. Don’t be surprised if Los Angeles overpays a player to take such a deal.
- As the Lakers position themselves to be major players in free agency a year from now, look for them to continue shedding salary. With Mozgov already gone, Los Angeles could try to completely erase the failures of last offseason by removing Luol Deng’s salary (three years, $54 million remaining) from the books as well.
- Doing so will be extremely challenging, however, and would require attaching a significant asset to Deng in the same ilk of last week’s trade that sent Russell and Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets. Aside from Deng, Jordan Clarkson (three years, $37.5 million remaining) is the only other player on the roster who makes more than $10 million a year.
Can Magic Johnson change the Lakers bad offseason fortunes?
The Lakers have missed the playoffs a franchise-record four straight seasons and are 91-237 during that span. While the on-court product in Los Angeles has been embarrassing, what has happened around this time of year dating back to 2013 is perhaps even worse:
- Dwight Howard, a free agent at the time, left for less money in 2013, just a year after the Lakers traded for him.
- Pau Gasol followed Howard’s footsteps, leaving for less money in 2014. The Lakers reportedly were offering more than $10 million per season, but Gasol signed a three-year, $22 million contract with the Chicago Bulls.
- LaMarcus Aldridge embarrassed members of the Lakers' front office following a free-agent meeting in 2015, saying they “didn’t talk enough about basketball.”
- The Lakers didn't even get a meeting with Kevin Durant last year (six teams did).
- Last year, Los Angeles overpaid for Mozgov with a four-year, $64 million contract as soon as free agency opened.
- The Lakers followed up the Mozgov deal by overpaying for Deng (four years, $72 million). That came after Kent Bazemore turned down the Lakers to sign a deal worth $2 million less with the Atlanta Hawks.
Why the Lakers would trade for George now -- and why it would benefit him
Although George didn’t qualify for the super-max this past season, he still has the opportunity to do so next year if he remains with the Indiana Pacers -- who could offer a five-year deal worth a projected $207 million in the summer of 2018. But if George does not qualify for the super-max, Indiana’s best offer would be capped at five years and $177 million. The Lakers would only be able to offer a maximum of four years and $132 million.
- Another team could trade for George this offseason and then renegotiate a contract extension with him. This would give George an extra $10 million for the 2017-18 season and take him off of next summer’s free agent market.
- George would maintain his Bird rights if the Lakers trade for him, which would allow Los Angeles to offer him a five-year deal worth a projected $177 million next summer. If a trade can’t be worked out before then, George would have to take $45 million less in guaranteed money to sign with Los Angeles as a free agent in 2018.
Earlier this month on the "Road Trippin'" podcast, James pointed to the 2002-03 Los Angeles Lakers (Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant) and 1995-96 Rockets (Drexler, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon) as the original superteams.
James was responding to Draymond Green's declaration at the Golden State Warriors' victory parade that James had "started the superteam" with the Miami Heat, a few days after James had said he never played on a superteam.
Drexler, in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday for the beginning of the BIG3 League, where he is a coach, told ESPN's Coley Harvey that the first superteams were the Boston Celtics
Could the Big Baller Brand be expanding toward "Big Brawler" territory?
According to a report from the Pro Wresting Sheet, LaVar Ball, enigmatic father to new Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, and the WWE are in talks to feature a LaVar appearance on WWE Raw this Monday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The rumors first started swirling when what sounds like LaVar discussing a WWE cameo was in the background of a live stream showing the Ball brothers' reaction to Lonzo being drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers on Thursday night.
LaVar Ball, 48, has exhibited a level of showmanship on par with that of the WWE in the last few months. He was even booed by fans while leaving the Barclays Center following his son being drafted.
This week's mailbag features your questions on which top-10 picks are most ready to contribute as rookies, the returns on blockbuster trades involving star players and more.
After Lonzo Ball was selected No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in Thursday's NBA draft, his father, LaVar, wasn't shy about proclaiming his belief that the team would make the postseason in 2017-18.
"Lonzo Ball is going to take the Lakers to the playoffs in his first year," the outspoken LaVar told ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
One Las Vegas sportsbook doesn't share his confidence.
On Saturday afternoon, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted the Lakers' odds to make next year's postseason at plus-500, and minus-700 to miss the postseason. That means a $100 wager on Los Angeles to miss the postseason would win $14.29; a $100 wager on L.A. to make the postseason would win $500.
Minnesota, which acquired All-Star Jimmy Butler in a draft-night deal, opened as a minus-260 favorite to make the postseason (bet $100 to win $38.46) and plus-220 to miss (bet $100 to win $220). The Timberwolves went 31-51 in a disappointing first-year campaign under coach Tom Thibodeau and have the NBA's longest playoff drought, having not made the postseason since 2003-04.
The 76ers now have the past two No. 1 overall picks in Markelle Fultz
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson didn't mince words when asked why the team traded point guard D'Angelo Russell -- the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft -- to the Brooklyn Nets this week.
"D'Angelo is an excellent player," Johnson said Friday when the Lakers introduced their top draft pick, point guard Lonzo Ball, at their practice facility. "He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with."
For the Lakers, the move was essentially a salary dump, as it allowed them to shed Mozgov's hefty salary -- he's entering the second year of a four-year, $64 million deal -- and take on Lopez's expiring contract.
Those moves should give the Lakers close to $60 million in significant cap room next summer -- enough to potentially sign two max-salary players.
Still, it marked a sharp and surprising end to Russell's tenure with the Lakers.
Johnson, however, kept praising the leadership qualities of Ball, whom the Lakers selected No. 2 overall out of UCLA.
"I went to the high school," Johnson said. "I talked to the principal. I talked to, I think, four teachers, they all said at different times, this guy, everybody attracts to this guy. And I said, OK, that's all I needed to hear. He's a leader. He treats people the right way. I said, OK, we've got our man now."
When the organization introduced Ball on Friday at the team's practice facility, Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson called him "the new face of the Lakers, the guy who I think will lead us back to where we want to get to."
Soon after, Johnson told Ball, 19, to look at a nearby wall, where several retired jerseys of Lakers icons are displayed.
"We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there one day," Johnson told Ball.
When asked about Johnson's comment, Ball replied, "I think it's a good goal to set. I'll definitely be chasing that."
Why the high expectations on Ball?
"He has greatness written all over him," Johnson said. "Now he just has to go out and push him, and we will, too. And [Lakers coach] Luke [Walton] and the coaching staff will do the same thing and it's OK, because he receives all that well.
"We're fine. We want expectations. We want to win championships here. We've got to get the right people in place to do that, but we're building every step. I'm not crazy. I know it's going to take time to build and we're building, but when we get the right people in here, we're going to win."
Johnson even referenced the 1980s Showtime Lakers -- a team he led -- when talking about the ball movement that he hopes Ball will bring to the Lakers.
"We want to start building a successful team, and you have to have a great leader," Johnson said, "and somebody that can make their teammates better, somebody who has incredible basketball IQ -- his IQ is off the charts -- and somebody who can get their teammates to follow them and want to get out on that wing like James Worthy