In the recent past, it’s tough to remember a time when a franchise was so closely linked to a big time player who wasn’t with the organization. The mutual interest is clearly there in the case of Paul George and the LA Lakers, but would a PG homecoming actually benefit Los Angeles’ future?
After seven years with the Indiana Pacers, Paul George is now in OKC in the final year of his contract and is eyeing no team more than his hometown Lakers as his preferred free agency destination. While bringing a superstar talent and perennial All-Star to Hollywood would be a great marketing move for the organization, Magic Johnson might wanna think twice about how signing or trading for George would affect Los Angeles on the court. Here’s why avoiding Paul George would ultimately be best for LA.
Other Options In 2018 Free Agency
Along with George there are several other star players who’s contracts are set to run out this year, such as LeBron James who Los Angeles also has their eye on. James really seems like he could fit in anywhere and signing one of the best to ever play would obviously do wonders for the Lakers financially, but the guy who would fit best on the team is DeMarcus Cousins. After a few failed attempts at acquiring Boogie from the Sacramento Kings in the past, LA now has a chance to pick him up in the 2018 offseason, despite rumors that suggest the big man is leaning towards staying in NOLA for the future. Cousins appears to be hitting his prime just as he’s about to slip into the open market, putting up almost Wilt Chamberlain like modern day numbers at 27. With Brook Lopez and Julius Randle likely out the door by next year, there should be a gaping disparity in the Laker frontcourt which Boogie could fill perfectly. A more developed Lonzo Ball alongside Cousins could be dangerous in a Western Conference with soon-to-be aging superstars. Spending max money on George would be a settle by the franchise.
Lineup Clogging and Development Stunting
While the Lakers could bring in an All-Star in George to upgrade their small forward spot for now, the team already has a couple 6’9″ potential stars in their lineup. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma have quite similar frames compared to George and have the potential to be All-Stars in the future. Signing or trading for George would almost ensure they would either have to move or bench Ingram or Kuzma. Both these two young players could be 20pt scorers as soon as next year if things go right. Deciding to spend money on an older star who may be passed by one or both of these two in as little as 3 years or so would be an awful move by Magic, preventing what could be a great team in a few years. Since the end of Kobe’s prime, the Lakers have been stacking up drafted talent on their team but haven’t found any sort of identity or cornerstone player until now. Drafting Lonzo Ball gives them their point guard for the future while they definitely have their forwards for the future with Ingram and Kuzma. Bringing in some older stars in free agency to put around these 3 is the next step for the franchise, but George is not the guy. LA has had trouble attracting superstars recently, which may be why they’re so eager to sign George without considering what it’d mean for their young players.
Losing Out on Free Agents in Future Summers
By going ahead and spending money on George this summer, the Lakers aren’t just losing the opportunity to sign other players this year but are also chancing missing out on stars who’ll be on the market in 2019 and beyond. LA native Klay Thompson will be a free agent in 2019 and while he’ll likely stay with the Warriors to try and keep winning titles in the Bay, Los Angeles should at least try and lure him south. They’d have to obviously rid of some other expendable players on the team to pick up Thompson if they do sign Cousins this summer, but a lineup of Ball, Thompson, Ingram, Kuzma, and Cousins could be a title team in a few years. The inevitable truth of having to start paying some of their young guys in a couple years makes money become an issue for the Lakers, making the use of a max contract on George even more unattractive.
It’s rare for a franchise to turn down a star player in free agency which may be necessary if Los Angeles were to avoid signing George as he’s made it pretty clear he wants to come home this summer, but it’s the best thing for their future. Sticking to their young players and looking to make a splash in free agency in different areas of the lineup would be most beneficial for them especially with the superstars on the market in the next couple years. It’s hard to see the Lakers and George not joining up next fall but considering going in a different direction would be best for LA.