After trade deadline, Lakers finally on a path to land their superstar

San Antonio Spurs v Indiana Pacers

The Los Angeles Lakers stood their ground at the NBA trade deadline, electing to put trust in their young core to develop through the remainder of the season. 

It's a move that indicates new President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson was being honest every time he mentioned how committed the team is to developing the young core. He's noted that detail about the plan moving forward several times since taking over.

The Lakers could have made a panic trade and overpaid a team to land the superstar they so desperately desire immediately, but passing up on the opportunity puts them in an even better position to land that player further down the road. 

The Lakers made plays for DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler and Paul George — the three big names that stole headlines throughout the deadline week — but came up empty-handed. 

LA would have needed to part ways with multiple important assets they've acquired since bottoming out to land any of those players. Getting a temporary upgrade in talent is a dangerous game to play.

It's also the exact game they lost when they acquired Dwight Howard just a few short years ago.

There's enough reason to believe the patience they showed could pay off down the road, though.

The hometown factor

The biggest bit of news for the Lakers throughout the process may have been how adamant sources around George were that he wants to wear the purple and gold. 

George grew up loving the Lakers, idolizing Kobe Bryant and loving Magic Johnson. Those are huge draws to the franchise that still hold serious weight. 

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers

This is an intriguing factor for the Lakers to consider. George can opt out of his contract following the '17-18 season, and the superstar swingman is "hell-bent" on going to LA if the Pacers aren't title contenders by then, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:

That detail was being passed to teams interested in making a trade for him, a fascinating wrinkle in how George's future is starting to play out:

The Pacers were unable to improve their roster by the end of the deadline, leaving them a single offseason to turn around a team that's only one win above .500.

Where there's smoke, there's fire, and it seems like George's desire to become a Laker if things don't pan out with the Pacers is burning strong. 

They kept their best selling points

The Lakers holding on to all of the pieces that make them an interesting young team on the rise is a huge draw for any free agent. It's far easier to sell a path upward with players like Brandon Ingram, D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle in place. 

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

Their potential alone is a reasonable draw on its own, and that factor should only get stronger as they continue developing. 

There's certainly something to be said about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush, but a future with the youngsters alongside an established All-Star-level talent isn't out of question.

Keeping the kids and signing a superstar as a free agent would be the Lakers' equivalent of having their cake and eating it too. That's the path they've put themselves on, and the one that would have the biggest impact on their fortunes. 

The draft lottery factor

The last factor to consider is the top-three protected 2017 first-round pick the Lakers await the fate of. 

The Philadelphia 76ers hold the rights to the draft pick, but the Lakers have been substantially worse than projected even with a new direction under head coach Luke Walton. 

Their 19-39 record has them as the second-worst team in the Western Conference, and they just dumped their best scorer in Lou Williams for draft considerations. The losses are only going to pile further. 

If the Lakers manage to retain their pick on draft lottery night again, the options in front of them become limitless. They can use that pick in a package to secure George one year ahead of his contract, draft another elite prospect, or look at any number of other trade options. 

The front office shouldn't bank on their lottery luck holding for the fourth season in a row, but if it does, there's no telling what they do with another highly-coveted asset to work with. 

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The Lakers are always tied to superstar players around the trade deadline, and agents love using the franchise as leverage during free agency. 

This time, though, the Lakers look like they're legitimately on a path that can finally lead them to the elite player they need to start turning around a roster that needs an anchor. 

Let's see just where this purple-and-yellow brick road takes them. 

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