NBA free agency rumors: Lakers to pursue stars in 2019 if they fall short this summer

The Lakers have been working on rekindling the glory days ever since Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took charge of the franchise. The trio's goal is to rebuild this organization into a winner and once again make the franchise a top destination for big-named free agents.

The new front office initially circled the summer of 2018 due to the loaded free agency class headlined by Paul George and LeBron James. However, according to to ESPN, those plans could be getting pushed back a summer with 2019 being the new goal.

As the Los Angeles Lakers become more realistic about the franchise's chances of snaring superstars in the free-agent class of 2018, the front office is increasingly looking through a longer lens in its team building process, league sources told ESPN. 

The Lakers aren't abandoning a summer pursuit of stars, but rather recalibrating their focus on a 2019 class that could include San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, Golden State's Klay Thompson and Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, league sources told ESPN. 

This is a smart approach by the Lakers in case they aren't able to snag a superstar in 2018. Rather than settle on other available players with the cap space they created they'll have the flexibility if necessary to push everything back a summer and try again in 2019. They can't panic and just fill out the roster with lesser players, because that's how they ended up with Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov on expensive deals in the 2016 free agency period.

The Lakers have been making moves to clear up cap space for the 2018 free agency period since last offseason when they signed short-term deals and sent D'Angelo Russell to the Nets in what amounted to a cap dump. They received a fine for tampering with Paul George. They've put all of their eggs in this basket and now they might have nothing to show for it.

The Lakers will most likely take a swing at George and James this summer, and they may very well miss. That happens to any team that banks on free agency, but Los Angeles has so openly talked about how coming away with nothing would look like a failure on its part. The Lakers can still make a run at those names this offseason, but the buzz around them isn't what it used to be. George is winning with the Thunder and nobody ever knows what James is going to do. If those were the two that the Lakers really wanted then they at least have a sound backup plan in place.

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