Report: Klay Thompson among 3 players suddenly being linked to Lakers with smoke coming from every direction

Jesse Cinquini
5 Min Read
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin brought up Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson as someone who Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James would seemingly take a pay cut for in order to land the 34-year-old in free agency.

“He is prioritizing a roster improvement,” James’ agent Rich Paul told ESPN on Saturday. “He’s been adamant about exuding all efforts to improve the roster.”

According to McMenamin, the Lakers could utilize the full mid-level exception to sign a player if James were to agree to less than a maximum contract. McMenamin also mentioned James Harden and Jonas Valanciunas as players to watch.

“Paul said James would be willing to work with the Lakers on signing a deal below the maximum three-year, $162 million he is eligible for to open up the full $12.9 million mid-level exception to sign an ‘impact player,'” McMenamin wrote.

“The type of player that James would be willing to make a financial sacrifice for would be an established veteran playmaker like James Harden or Klay Thompson, or an established big man to play alongside Anthony Davis — like Jonas Valančiūnas, sources told ESPN.

“If the Lakers are unable to entice a player of that ilk to come to L.A. for the MLE, James will seek the max, Paul told ESPN.

“James can only have so much patience in working with the Lakers on his next deal, however. Team USA’s training camp to prepare for this summer’s Paris Olympics begins in a week in Las Vegas. Paul told ESPN that he will look to complete a deal with the Lakers for James before Team USA camp opens up.”

Shams Charania and Anthony Slater of The Athletic also linked Thompson to the storied Lakers franchise along with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers.

“The Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks are expected to be among strong suitors for Thompson, according to league sources,” Charania and Slater wrote. “Multiple teams with salary cap space are expected to show interest in Thompson as well. Through the Tim Hardaway Jr. salary dump, the Mavericks have already generated enough room to offer the full projected $12.9 million midlevel on the market. The Lakers have the ability to generate the same, depending on where LeBron James’ next deal lands and other business.”

Additionally, two social media posts from folks in NBA circles may have fans of the Lakers feeling some emotions about the team’s chances of signing Thompson.

First, NBA insider Marc Stein reported that James feels hopeful that Los Angeles can challenge the Mavericks as legitimate suitors for Thompson.

Furthermore, Lakers reporter Brad Turner made a post stating that Thompson is “intrigued” by the idea of teaming up with James.

Thompson is fresh off a forgettable season with the Warriors, at least by his standards. Across 77 games played with Golden State during the 2023-24 regular season, he averaged 17.9 points per game — his lowest scoring average since the 2012-13 campaign — and shot 38.7 percent from deep, the second-lowest 3-point percentage of his NBA career.

But on the bright side, he did lead the league in free-throw percentage at 92.7, which suggests that he remains one of the NBA’s better shooters despite his unspectacular 3-point percentage in what may have been his swan song with the Warriors.

The Lakers’ statistics in the 2023-24 regular season suggest that the team could benefit greatly from signing a shooter of Thompson’s caliber, even if he isn’t the same player he once was. After all, Los Angeles ranked 24th in the NBA in 3-pointers made per contest (11.8) and 28th in 3s attempted per game (31.4).

On top of that, only two players on the team — James and D’Angelo Russell — averaged two or more 3-pointers made per game for Los Angeles. Russell led the way for the Lakers with 3.0 made 3s per game, and James converted 2.1 per contest while shooting a career-high 41.0 percent from deep.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.