The 2018 free agent class will be as star studded a group as we’ve ever seen headlined by LeBron James, Russell WestbrookPaul George, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and DeMarcus Cousins among others. One of the most intriguing narratives for this loaded class is the potential for the Los Angeles Lakers. This will be a gold rush of sorts and the Lakers hope it ends in Southern California.

Reports have begun surfacing linking LeBron to the Lakers and the threat of Magic Johnson signing him is real. The most sited reasons are that he owns a home in Los Angeles and is preparing for life after basketball. LeBron has a number of non-basketball related interests and Los Angeles can provide a place that allows him to continue his playing while rubbing elbows daily with the entertainment industry’s elite. He’s spoken about becoming a billionaire and who better than Magic Johnson to assist him with making the transition from rich athlete to wealthy businessman? While on the court, he is unlikely to catch Michael Jordan’s six championships or Magic and Kobe Bryant’s five, but joining the Lakers could give him an opportunity to further cement his legacy. He’d have the chance to lead a third franchise to a championship and that in itself is rarefied air.

The other two stars current play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Much of the fascination with Russell Westbrook has centered on him playing college basketball for UCLA and being from Long Beach California. These rumors go back years and when Kevin Durant left for Golden State they got a little louder. Russell walks to the beat of his own drum – he hasn’t signed his $207 million extension offer from the Thunder. This alone gives hope that he’ll be on the market after the season. It’s also believed that his idolization of Kobe Bryant certainly helps the Lakers chances of landing the perennial All-Star.

Russell Westbrook’s new teammate Paul George has made it known he has his eyes set on the Lakers. He too grew up in California (Palmdale) and also idolized Kobe – he wore the number 24 early in his career as tribute. The question remains how well he and Westbrook will gel and if he’ll want to stay in Oklahoma City. Additionally, questions of tampering loom as the Pacers allege the Lakers had improper contact with George. That said, George is still the most likely of the three to end up in the purple and gold.

According to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders the NBA salary cap is projected to be $102M next year. The Lakers could offer James and/or Westbrook $153.5M over 4 years. Paul George could potentially earn $131.6M over the same timeframe. It’s going to take some work but the Lakers could sign two of the three and still manage to retain Brook Lopez. It is likely going to take the Lakers renouncing or trading Julius Randle and moving Jordan Clarkson – Luol Deng’s contract still manages to be an albatross but the option remains to stretch out the remaining money owned to him.

It seems the stars are aligning in Los Angeles for something special. Visions of a Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and new look Los Angeles Lakers featuring some combination of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. No writer in Hollywood could produce a better story-line.

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