The Los Angeles Lakers were fortunate to land the second overall pick in the NBA draft lottery but everyone knows that it takes superstars to win in the NBA. While the Lakers may have a number of talented youngsters and another one coming in June, they don’t have (or haven’t yet identified) the player that they can truly build their team around. As such, rumors have persisted that they will be interested in bringing on Indiana Pacers star Paul George in the near future.
George will almost certainly opt for free agency in the summer of 2018 rather than pick up the final year on his contract. He grew up in Palmdale where he idolized Kobe Bryant and would reportedly like to return home to play for the Lakers. According to a recent piece by Sam Amick for USA Today, if the Pacers can’t turn their team into a contender then George will bolt for L.A in 2018 because he believes he can change the team’s fortunes:
But after making it all the way back from his horrific leg break in the summer of 2014, and threatening to unseat the great LeBron James in those back-to-back Heat-Pacers conference finals, George finds himself more focused on legacy than ever. And whether it’s realistic or not, the 27-year-old who grew up idolizing Bryant in Palmdale, Calif. clearly believes he can lift the Lakers out of the darkness. The question now, it seems, is whether the Lakers will have the necessary patience and prudence on their end to make the most of their situation.
As Amick notes, one of the big questions this summer will be whether or not Los Angeles has the patience to wait until 2018 to bring George aboard. Indiana would certainly prefer not to watch their star leave with nothing to show for it, so they may look to move George this summer in order to recoup some value.
Of course, if George is dead-set on coming to Los Angeles in 2018 then most teams won’t be willing to give up much for a one-year rental, but the danger for the Lakers is that he is traded to a championship contender and is then convinced to stay long-term.
Should Indiana decide to trade George they will look to take advantage of those fears and start a bidding war, but it will be up to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to resist. If they can land George in 2018 as a free agency and keep their assets intact then the Lakers rebuild will really take off.