Since taking over at the helm of the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have made it clear that the summer of 2018 will be a re-defining period of time for the future of the club.
Clearing cap space so that the Lakers have enough room to sign two max-contract free agents is the obvious goal, as Magic has stated publicly many times.
Unfortunately, the team owes $36.8 million to Luol Deng over the next two seasons. Since no team will likely be willing to take on the rest of his massive contract since he has essentially been a healthy scratch for Los Angeles this year, the Lakers will be forced to move Jordan Clarkson if they plan on clearing the necessary space.
Clarkson is owed $25.9 million over the next two seasons and is a much more appealing asset for another club to acquire. He’s averaging a productive 13.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists over 22.1 minutes per contest as the team’s sixth man.
During a recent appearance on ESPN’s Full Court Press special, Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a patented “Woj Bomb” on everyone yet again when it comes to LA’s plans with Clarkson.
"They believe they can trade Jordan Clarkson and get his money off,” the NBA insider reported. “They prefer not to do it at the trade deadline. Clarkson has helped them win games this year, and because they don't have their pick, they want to win as many games as they can. So I think there's some confidence there that they can find a deal for Clarkson after the season, to get his money off. But there's got to be a sequencing here. And it gets back to, are they going to chase one max-salary slot, or two?”
Interestingly, it would be in the team’s best interest to hold on to Clarkson for the rest of this season. Since they don’t own their first-round pick, they want to win as many games as possible because there’d be no benefit from losing.
Therefore, Clarkson, who the Lakers respect and value, would be a logical choice to be moved in the offseason, perhaps even in a sign-and-trade scenario.
There is always the option of keeping Clarkson alongside a young core that includes Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, but that would probably only happen if the team cannot land two high-profile free agents or max-contract caliber players in the summer of 2018.