Los Angeles Lakers must not blow up roster

(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

After 5 long, agonizing years, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers are finally looking forward to the team contending again.

With the Los Angeles Lakers last playoff appearance being in 2013, and last playoff game won in 2012, the team’s new front office hopes to turn the team’s fortunes around quickly this offseason. Trading away the young, high-ceiling, quickly developing players they’ve acquired in recent years should not be part of the plan.

After news broke Friday that Kawhi Leonard wants to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers’ offseason rumors have ramped up significantly, with much of the talk centered around forming a “Big 3” of LeBron James, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard.

The front office has been targeting James and George for quite some time now and has made it possible to clear the cap space necessary to sign both players outright. Of course, it’s always possible that these two do not sign with the Lakers.

Many fans are hoping the Lakers’ front office will pull off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to land superstar Kawhi Leonard. This would finally give the Lakers the superstar they’ve been missing and could help lure players like LeBron James and Paul George to sign with the team in free agency.

Other fans are hoping the Lakers do NOT trade away some of the young talented players the Lakers have. In the post-Kobe era, fans have grown attached to players such as Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and more recently, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart.

In a recent interview, Kobe Bryant talked about building a team “organically”, from within. Last season’s Lakers’ young core showed so much promise, one could argue this team could grow into a dynasty.

Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart were all impressive and will continue to improve. Julius Randle, who will be a restricted free agent, transformed his body and his game and became a beast that many teams were unable to stop from scoring.

The team started to establish an identity, learn each other’s tendencies, and mesh. Some of these players became fan favorites. If this core continues to play together, the Lakers could be building something special that can last a decade.

With all the work the front office did to clear salary cap space for two max free agents, trading away the budding young core would not be a wise move. One of the reasons that the marquee free agents are looking at the Lakers is due to the progress of their youth.

It’s been reported that guys like LeBron and Paul George could greatly benefit from playing with Lonzo Ball, due to the fact he is an assist machine, and always looking to pass to make the right play.

If LeBron and/or Paul George sign with the Lakers, they’d be better off surrounded by budding All-Stars, rather than a third superstar and a bunch of scrubs. Additionally, the Lakers can get Kawhi for nothing next summer when he’s a free agent. He’s already expressed his desire to play for the Lakers.

The one positive about trading for Kawhi now is that they would finally have a top-three player on the team, which could help lure the other free agents.

However, after watching the young core develop for years, I see something special out of the squad. If they had the exact same roster next season, they’d probably make the playoffs, as they played so well in the second half of the season.

The master plan was to draft well, develop the young players into solid players, and add one or two big names this summer. Adding an established star would get them over the hump and back into contention.

Julius Randle being drafted marked the beginning of the re-build, and he has really taken his game to an All-Star level. If the Lakers are able to land LeBron and George, they will probably have to let Randle walk.

Julius Randle was arguably the best player on the team last season. If he can somehow be re-signed, that would be a huge plus. He’s also the last guy on the team who played alongside Kobe Bryant.

Isaiah Thomas played well during his short stint with the Lakers, but he was a top-five MVP candidate a year ago. I think he’s being overlooked a lot, and the Lakers should consider re-signing him to a one-year “prove it” deal.

The Lakers were fun to watch, even if their record wasn’t the greatest. They played fast, uptempo, fun basketball (in one game NINE different Lakers scored in double-figures), and their record would surely improve next season. If they trade away the young core, even if it means the fans get a few fun years of a ridiculous “Big 3”, we won’t get to witness the chemistry continuing to grow with this team.

So with the most cap space in the league, armed to offer big name free agents big contracts this summer, the Lakers should keep the impressive young core intact to play alongside the stars they may bring in.

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Brook Lopez was also part of their improvement last season and has said he would take a pay cut to play on the Lakers if they were serious contenders.

For me personally, the ideal starting lineup for 2018-19 would look like this…
1. Lonzo Ball/Isaiah Thomas

2. Paul George

3. Brandon Ingram

4. LeBron James

5. Julius Randle/Brook Lopez

6th man. Kyle Kuzma.

Don’t give up on the youth for one extra year of Kawhi, when they could be surrounding incoming stars with legitimate young talent.

Lastly, the chances of the Spurs trading Leonard to the Lakers are not very good anyways. Also, the only way to bring back Julius Randle (if they get LeBron and PG), is to get Luol Deng‘s contract off the books. That will be a difficult task.

Now, if we could get Kawhi by trading only ONE of our core guys and some future picks, I’d be open to that. It’s just so hard to decide which one. Keeping Kuzma should probably be a priority if there are trade talks.

But, here’s to hoping they can simply add LeBron and Paul George through free agency, and have them play alongside the likes of Ingram, who looks poised to have a breakout season, Kuzma, who impressed us all and exceeded expectations immediately, and Lonzo, who has serious potential to be a star. And if they can find a way to keep Randle, too…watch out NBA.

Next: Los Angeles Lakers Ultimate Guide to 2018 Offseason

We will see how it all shakes out soon enough. One thing is for sure. The Los Angeles Lakers are back baby!