Lakers avoid massive risk after rumored free agency target signs with rival

The Los Angeles Lakers have missed out on one of their top free-agency targets. It could be a blessing in disguise—even if they did sign with a rival.
Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks
Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2024 offseason with polarizing expectations. Perhaps the two most prevalent talking points in terms of potential roster changes were the rumored acquisitions of Bronny James via the NBA Draft and Chris Paul through free agency.

James was selected by the Lakers at No. 55 overall at the 2024 NBA Draft, thus leaving the acquisition of the other player with a LeBron James connection as the last domino to fall.

The Golden State Warriors waived Chris Paul early on Sunday, June 30, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. The move opened the door for James and Paul, longtime friends, to become teammates for the first time on an NBA roster.

According to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Paul has instead opted to commit to the development of Victor Wembanyama by signing with the San Antonio Spurs.

With Paul going to the Spurs, the Lakers are now tasked with pivoting away from the expected decision and finding a way to improve the roster in a different manner.

Chris Paul signs with the Spurs, saving the Lakers from a massive risk

It's a surprising development to some extent, as Paul is 39 years of age and has yet to win a championship. He's one of the very best at elevating a franchise, however, as his tenures with the Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Phoenix Suns all prove.

The Spurs seem to be hoping that Paul has enough left in the tank to help Wembanyama, the reigning Rookie of the Year, do the same in 2024-25.

As for Los Angeles, missing out on Paul could prove to be a blessing in disguise. He's one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, with a résumé that compares to just about anyone who has ever played the position.

Paul is also 39, however, and has missed at least 23 games in each of the past two seasons—a trend that's historically unlikely to be bucked the closer a player gets to 40.

On paper, adding one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history to a roster that features Anthony Davis and James is undeniably appealing. The reality with the current roster, however, is that the top two players already have injury concerns of their own.

Both Davis and James missed at least 26 games in each of the three seasons prior to 2023-24, with the latter missing 27 in 2018-19, as well.

Adding Paul to the roster would mean creating a lineup that relies on three players who have had trouble staying healthy. It might've been a risk worth taking at an earlier point in time, but betting on James and Paul avoiding the injury bug at 39 would be a monumental risk.

Instead, the Lakers can now revisit their options and search for a player who better fits the more challenging realities of the core they're building around.