The impending free-agency of Jordan Clarkson might turn into a major headache for the Los Angeles Lakers, especially if they take a small-ball approach this offseason.
The Lakers, on the verge of missing the postseason for third consecutive season, have a bright future ahead all because of its young and talented core. However, keeping the young guys intact could be a lot harder than many would think.
Clarkson will hit the free-agency market this offseason, although unrestricted, an ugly contract negotiation with the Lakers could change it all in the blink of an eye.
The Lakers will enter this offseason armed with loads of cash for a big free-agency splurge. Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant remains the no.1 free-agency target for the Lakers, while several All-Star players like Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors are presumably on their wish list.
With Kobe Bryant retiring at the end of the season, the Lakers front office, headed by General Manager Mitch Kupchak, faces immense pressure to bring in a star at all cost.
However, this unbridled obsession to land a big name free-agent will haunt them sooner or later, more so if they forego the opportunity to lock in a budding talent like Clarkson right away.
Clarkson, who is averaging 15.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in 32 minutes per game this season, is expected to ask for a pay-hike this offseason after cashing in checks worth under $1MM in his first two seasons with the Lakers.
At the trade deadline, Kupchak confirmed that he received interests for the Lakers young players, including Clarkson. Although the Lakers GM didn’t specify any of these teams, it’s likely this same set of suitors are the ones making another run at Clarkson when he hits the market.
The Lakers will have the rights to match any offer sheet on the table for Clarkson. But what if there’s a team willing to gamble crazy amount of money (perhaps $7 million per year contract) for Clarkson? Should that be the case, many expect the Lakers to let Clarkson walk away.
So which teams will most likely give that kind of a contract to Clarkson? We are talking about the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and guess what, the New York Knicks, teams that are still looking for a point guard with future cornerstone material.
The Lakers haven’t been a destination for superstar free-agents it once was. Missing on a big-time star is always a big blow for this fabled franchise, but losing a young talent who later on turns into a legit All-Star is exponentially devastating.
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