Lakers swing and miss on LeBron James priority target, but hope remains

The Los Angeles Lakers prioritized the signing of the player who LeBron James has prioritized in free agency. Unfortunately, those efforts have fallen short.
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Four
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Four / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have gone all-in on Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson in free agency. It's a development that falls in line with the Lakers' desire to improve its shooting and perimeter defense.

Unfortunately, the effort put forth by James and the front office has ultimately fallen short as Los Angeles has lost Thompson to a conference rival.

The Lakers entered free agency hoping to improve along the perimeter after an underwhelming 2023-24 season. Los Angeles ranked No. 24 in the NBA in three-point field goals made and No. 28 in attempts—marks Thompson certainly would've aided in improving upon.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, however, that dream will no longer become a reality after Thompson agreed to sign with the rival Dallas Mavericks.

Per Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, the Lakers offered Thompson more money per season, albeit with a dramatic difference in income tax, but the four-time NBA champion opted to sign with the Mavericks.

Instead of joining forces with Anthony Davis and James, Thompson will instead join Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and the defending Western Conference champions.

The Lakers miss out on Klay Thompson—for now?

Missing out on Thompson is a crushing blow considering how invested the Lakers were in acquiring him. It also stings due to how seamlessly he would've fit in alongside the trio of Anthony Davis, James, and Reaves on both ends of the floor.

Thompson's defense has taken a hit since he tore his ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals and tore his Achilles tendon just before his highly-anticipated return, but his shooting is still top-tier.

This past season, Thompson averaged 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 3.5 three-point field goals made in 29.7 minutes per game. He did so while maintaining an eFG% of .551, which compares favorably to his pre-injury efficiency.

For as disappointing as it is to miss out on the opportunity to add Thompson to the rotation, Haynes provided a crucial update that the Lakers are likely keeping in mind:

It's unlikely that the deal will fall through, but the sign-and-trade is an essential piece of this puzzle—and the Warriors might not want what the Mavericks are offering.

It's important not to hold out too much hope here, as Thompson to Dallas is a borderline lock at this stage. In the event that the deal falls through, however, the Lakers would surely jump to the front of the line as a potential free-agency fit.

In the meantime, Los Angeles must accept that it's time to move on and search for other options on the open market.