The Lakers have all the leverage in the world when it comes to trading for Paul George. When George informed the Pacers that he would be , he also told them that his preferred destination was the Lakers. This has put Indiana in a rough situation where they have to try and deal George with the entire NBA knowing where he will be out of town when he hits free agency in 2018.
With that in mind, what should the Lakers do when it comes to George? There isn’t a need to immediately trade for him when he’s already made his future destination known. If anything they can just wait it out and sign him in free agency without losing a single asset. However, there is definite risk in going that route and L.A needs to decide if the risk is worth keeping their assets.
The case for waiting it out
Los Angeles has no need to trade for George when they know what his plans are. They’re going to have the cap space to sign him in 2018 and Magic Johnson even said that. He didn’t say why, but the assumption is that it was to eventually sign a superstar-caliber player like George.
If the Lakers wait it out, then they don’t have to give up a single one of their young assets or draft picks. Not only will they be able to further develop their youth, but they can later flip those same assets for pieces that might not be a guarantee to sign with them later. This gives the Lakers greater flexibility for the future and with the current state of the roster that is the true goal. Even with the addition of George, they’re probably unlikely to make the playoffs next season, so why rush this?
The case for making a trade
Why risk losing out on George? That’s the primary reason why trading for George should be done sooner rather than later. The Lakers may have leverage over Indiana but they don’t have it over the rest of the league. There are already reports of the Cavaliers and Pacers are involving George and if he ends up on a contender that could change his mind about Los Angeles.
This is why it would be extremely risk for the Lakers to roll the dice and allow George to play a season on another team. Winning changes everything — possibly even the desire to play in Los Angeles. That said, if the Lakers get George first then they can cut out risk and get a head start of building around him. They’ll learn his strengths and weaknesses while forming a system that George thrives in. If there is success in Season 1 then they can translate that to adding more stars in the future. Why wait? The Lakers should go out and get the star they want now.
What the Lakers should do
Just trade for George. He wants to play in Los Angeles and they want to build the next era of their team around him. Waiting a year just to sign him in free agency might save some money, but there’s too much risk of him ending up on a rental somewhere and being content on putting off Los Angeles for the future. There’s no need to wait on this.
With George in Los Angeles they’ll be a step ahead of their building plan. They can enter their next free agency summer with a clear idea of what needs to be done to build a contender. Once they have a superstar again it will be easier to gain the attention of other stars. Hopefully one of the younger players will have developed by then. All of a sudden the Lakers are competing for titles again and it’s just like the old days. Trade for Paul George and get this process started now.