Lakers blueprint for 2019 free agency

Los Angeles Lakers

Notable Free Agents: Michael Beasley (non-Bird); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Early Bird); JaVale McGee (non-Bird); Rajon Rondo (non-Bird); Lance Stephenson (non-Bird); Ivica Zubac (restricted)

Options Likely to Be Exercised: Lonzo Ball (team); Josh Hart (team); Brandon Ingram (team); Kyle Kuzma (team)

Non-Guaranteed Salaries: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

Salary-Cap Outlook: Hi, Kawhi.

Biggest Flight Risk: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Realistic Target: Kawhi Leonard (player option)

Most Pressing Question: Is LeBron James a free-agent magnet?

Stretching Luol Deng and renouncing most of their other free agents puts the Lakers on track for max money. They have the green light to contact Durant if LeBron feels like shooting his shot, but a fully healthy Leonard is just as good, maybe better, and almost three years younger (27). He does more to preserve their open-ended window.
Does any of this matter?

James was once considered the ultimate recruiter. That reputation is taking some hits now. Irving wanted to get away from him in Cleveland. Paul George didn’t wait for him to sign with the Lakers before announcing his return to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Leonard might prefer the Clippers or even the Philadelphia 76ers to joining James, per Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania (h/t RealGM).

ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski refuted this train of thought. That bodes well for the Lakers. Even if they whiff on Leonard and every other premier target, they’re fine. They have James under lock and key, and their stash of youth is brimming with star potential (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram) and rotation-player reliability (Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma).

Oh, make no mistake: The Lakers need to go for next summer’s top prizes. But there should be a comfort in knowing their future isn’t dependent on a free-agency coup.