With their hopes of landing two star free agents this summer dwindling, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking further into the future and "recalibrating their focus" on the 2019 free-agent class, according to an ESPN report.
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers' salary-clearing efforts had been geared toward signing a pair of stars to max-level contracts this offseason, with LeBron James, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins as the top targets.
However, Cousins recently ruptured his Achilles tendon, George has indicated he might stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder and James "is believed to have a reluctance" to join the Lakers without another established star in the fold.
So, while the team is not "abandoning" this summer's market, it is now more focused on a 2019 class that could include Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler.
The Lakers are in the middle of their best stretch since 2013, winning 10 of their past 14 games despite playing without injured point guard Lonzo Ball for the last 10.
While the team's surge isn't the primary reason for its changing view on upcoming free agency, it has been a factor, according to Wojnarowski.
Often mentioned in trade talks, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have thrived of late, posting their best numbers of the year in January. While either player or both could still be traded before Thursday's deadline, the team isn't as pressured to move them to clear salary in the short term.
By taking a longer approach to free agency, the Lakers could also give a young core of Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma more time to develop, potentially making the team more enticing to star free agents down the line.
Despite their best efforts, the Lakers have struggled to woo top-level free agents for the past several years, epitomized by the team not getting a meeting with Kevin Durant in 2016. With their focus reportedly now turning toward 2019, that trend may not change this summer.
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