The calendar says August, so the weather is hot, the topics are stale, and as a result, we get silly speculation. Like the idea that LeBron James might pick Oklahoma City because he’s looking for a stable organization.
LeBron-chronicler Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated discussed the idea on The Jump, and made some tremendous points, but unfortunately the OKC part isn’t in this video:
“I think this is going to be about winning … [LeBron] wants to win in these last 5 years … he has a firm window of what his prime is … part of this is going to come down to the organization. I don’t know that he worried so much – like most players – about the owner, the GM, before.”
The Thunder have an innovative GM in Sam Presti whom the media loves, but let’s be honest – just how creative is he if he got OKC in a terrible salary cap situation? Yes, the Thunder got out from under Victor Oladipo, but all they got back was a rental in Paul George. So before making the leap to LeBron-and-the-Thunder, we’ve got to start here: Can OKC even win with George and Westbrook?
But let’s get back to the GM situation, which is why many people write off the Lakers as a LeBron destination. Their recent history has indeed been embarrassing. The Kobe stuff. The inability to land worthwhile free agents (or even interviews).
But what is often not discussed is that regime is gone. It’s Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s show now. They’ve been pulling the strings for less than six months and have already accomplished a ton:
* Smart trade of Lou Williams to Houston. Helped the Lakers tank; they flipped the 28th pick into two picks from Utah, which resulted in Josh Hart (Villanova) and Thomas Bryant (Indiana). Both may start the season on the roster
* Unloaded the atrocious Timofey Mozgov contract. Packaged with D'Angelo Russell, it landed the Lakers Brook Lopez (20.5 ppg, one All-Star appearance). Most importantly, Lopez is an expiring contract, meaning they’ll have salary cap room next summer.
* Signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal. He’ll be the defensive shooting guard they lacked (LA was dead last in defensive efficiency last year). Also, the LeBron tie-in mentioned in the above link.
* Drafted Lonzo Ball 2nd overall.
Not only has Magic Johnson reconfigured the Lakers on the fly, but they’ll have cap room next summer to add two free agents.
But it gets better: I actually think the Lakers have done so well this offseason, they’ll be able to make a massive leap into the playoffs next season. They’ve got three new starters, Utah and Memphis got significantly worse, and the Clippers won’t be nearly as imposing. Plus … Lonzo.