Magic Johnson challenged Jordan Clarkson to win the sixth man of the year award this season, which could help the Los Angeles Lakers in future trade talks.
The Lakers have made it clear they are looking toward the future—a future they hope includes two max free agents next offseason. To make room for two max players the Lakers need to create even more cap space than they already have by trading Timofey Mozgov. The next in line to be moved in L.A.’s rebuild is rumored to be Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson has enough talent that the Lakers could potentially package him with Luol Deng to get rid of both their contracts. Clarkson signed a $50 million, four-year deal with L.A. a year ago, while Deng’s contract is worth $72 million over four years.
Although Clarkson is a nice piece off the bench and can score from anywhere on the floor, his ceiling isn’t high enough to make him untouchable like Brandon Ingram, and he’s not as much of a dominant force as Julius Randle can be making him the right mix of valuable and expendable for the Lakers to shop.
If L.A. could move Deng alone they’d have enough cap space to keep Clarkson and sign the free-agents they want to next year. However, there probably isn’t a team willing to take on Deng’s contract without an asset to go with him. So much like moving Mozgov meant saying goodbye to D’Angelo Russell, moving Deng is only realistic if a young player is packaged with him.
Because Clarkson is due over $12 million this year and over $13 million next year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Lakers could trade him straight up. With Clarkson off the books that will relieve L.A. of an $11 million cap hit and give them about $59.4 million to spend on max free agents in 2018.
Clarkson will remain a name in trade rumors all season, and even though Magic Johnson challenged him to win sixth man of the year, that feat likely won’t have an impact on Clarkson’s fate as a Laker. If he doesn’t improve his game but keeps up his usual production he’s going to be a top candidate for L.A. to trade. On the other hand, if he is able to win sixth man of the year or is even in the running, he’ll make himself more of an asset thus upping his trade value.
Magic’s challenge to Clarkson isn’t coming from a negative place, but he can’t deny that Clarkson becoming the sixth man of the year will woo other teams into making offers for him. Once offers start rolling in, the Lakers’ options will multiply. Seeing as L.A.’s front office is focused on 2018, a solid sixth man of the year bid for Clarkson can be the catalyst to the final stage of their rebuild.