The Los Angeles Lakers’ Yard Sale Spells Trouble For Portland Trail Blazers

Late on Tuesday afternoon, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarnowski reported that the Los Angeles Lakers are trading D’Angelo Russell, previously the No. 2 pick in 2015 draft, and center Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers will receive big-man Brook Lopez and this year’s No. 27 draft pick in return.

Russell has a bright future, and Mozgov has a championship ring. Neither Lopez nor the 27th pick have either.

To the naked eye this is a puzzling trade. But don’t get too excited Blazer’s fans, the Lakers are preparing for the future, and it looks like there will be one more team standing between Portland and the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the next several years to come.

The end of the 2016-17 season was a rare bright spot for Rip City. In February of 2017, the Blazers traded for Jusuf Nurkic, a center from the Denver Nuggets. The “Bosnian Beast” averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds in his 20 games as a Blazer, and Portland went 14-6 with him on the floor. The Trailblazer’s dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum thrived with Nurkic occupying the paint, and a bright future once again entered the dreams of many desperate Blazer fans.

It finally looked like the seemingly cursed franchise up in the Pacific Northwest might have a roster of young talent capable of matching up with the super-team down South, the Golden State Warriors.

But in my eyes, this trade changed that, and the key is to look past what the Lakers will have on the court this upcoming season. What matters is something you can’t easily see — salary cap space.

By shipping the two assets to Brooklyn, L.A. can now generate somewhere between $37M-$49M of 2018-2019 cap room, and depending on whether or not they find a home for Jordan Clarkson and resign Julius Randle (the No. 7 pick in the 2014 draft), that cap space could exceed $64M, enough to sign two max-salary players in 2018.

Are you unaware of the notable unrestricted free agents in 2018? Let’s take a look at the list of players who could be wearing purple and gold in the next few seasons.

(WARNING: Blazer Fans, you may want to sit down for this).

– LeBron James

– Russell Westbrook

– Paul George

– DeAndre Jordan

– DeMarcus Cousins

– Carmelo Anthony

– LaMarcus Aldridge (That would sting…)

The list goes on, but I think we’ve all had enough. The point is that L.A. is thinking ahead, and they seem to have the pieces in place to make a run in the West. The Lakers also currently hold the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and they are expected to draft UCLA star Lonzo Ball, assuming they don’t trade that pick for more assets.

With Kevin Durant’s decimation of our current idea of NBA free agency and its effect on the league, players are more likely to team up in order to secure a ring. It looks like the Lakers could sign two of these perennial All-Stars next year, and if that thought doesn’t make your stomach turn, I don’t know what will.

This comes at a very inopportune time for Portland. After signing both McCollum and Lillard to long-term deals in the past few years, there is very little cap-flexibility to work with soon. Outside of trades, the Blazers’ roster is pretty much set.

The addition of Nurkic was a major boost for Rip City, and the ceiling is high for this young and talented squad up North. But the tea leaves show another super-team getting ready to take a strong-hold on the league down South, and I’m not sure the Blazers will have the fire power to get past them.