Are the Lakers a threat to sign Andrew Wiggins away from the Warriors?

It’s always naïve to trust what you hear on Media Day, especially when players are tasked with giving inherently charged answers regarding their long-term future. Optimism reigns throughout the league at the dawn of a new season. Unless someone really wants to hint at or force their impending departure, players typically toe the team line with a mixture of measured deviation and sunny positivity when asked about extensions, free agency and trades.

All related agendas can’t be veiled too lightly anyway. Nothing drives the league’s popularity like the mere specter of player movement, and contract details are now public knowledge. If reported rumors about a player’s future don’t swirl, rampant speculation certainly will.

Take this tidbit on the Los Angeles Lakers’ potential interest in Andrew Wiggins should he reach free agency next summer. Spitting on Los Angeles’ plans after 2022-23, a Western Conference executive told Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney that Wiggins would be higher on the Lakers’ free agent wish list than Kyrie Irving.

“They’ll look at Kyrie Irving, of course, but he’s probably not their first choice. They’ll look at Jerami Grant, who they’ve long loved, same with Myles Turner. I think Andrew Wiggins would be a big hit. there because he can play both ways.

Where Wiggins should rank in this theoretical pecking order isn’t the point here, but it’s safe to say Los Angeles would be calling next July if all things were equal. Any basketball team would benefit from the consistent two-way presence he provided during the Golden State Warriors championship run, not to mention one in absolutely terrible need a quality winger game. This version of Wiggins would be an impact player anywhere.

But unfortunately for the rest of the league, there are no signs that he wants to leave the Warriors.

Wiggins’ responses to questions about a possible contract extension at Golden State’s media day were so revealing of nonchalance that they deserve to be taken at face value. He’s fully confident that the ‘bag’ he and Jordan Poole popped bottles in in the Warriors championship locker room is coming, genuinely oblivious to the extension talks between his agents and the front office as his title defense team starts.

“It doesn’t really weigh much,” Wiggins said. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole when asked about his contractual status. “I play basketball and let my agents worry about all of this. My plan is just to hoop, you know, and then whatever happens.

Pressed on whether he would rather put pen to paper on a new deal with the Warriors before free agency, Andrew Wiggins once again clarified where his priorities lie.

“No, I know my agents and my team probably have a plan or something,” he said. “For now, my focus is only on the season and what lies ahead.”

Nothing has changed for Wiggins as the afterglow of the Championship fades.

He said he would “love to stay” at Golden State moments after winning his first championship, reiterating that desire publicly many times since. Wiggins has found his basketball home with the Warriors, and the franchise’s power brokers — from Joe Lacob and Myers to Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry — definitely feel the same way.

Golden State has already broken the record for total payroll, however, and Lacob drew a future line in the sand this summer that fell below a supposed high of $400 million. Myers admitted just last week that the Warriors may not be able to bring back each of Wiggins, Draymond Green and Jordan Poole if they all reach the open market in July.

An extension is still on the table for Andrew Wiggins. He was the Warriors’ second-best player for the vast majority of Finals, occasionally beating Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with a championship on the line. With Green turning 33 in March and Poole exhibiting much the same strengths and weaknesses as a Curry late in the season, keeping Wiggins could be of the utmost importance to Golden State, whether or not he gets an extension.

But that’s not the only factor complicating Wiggins’ proposed move to Southern California next season.

The Lakers are still considering a trade with Russell Westbrook, looking for a group of players who would propel them up the championship hierarchy despite giving up only one future first-round pick. There is a very chances are that this pie-in-the-sky deal will never materialize. If Rob Pelinka finally relents and includes both the 2027 and 2029 first rounders in a Westbrook trade, what kind of return could be realistic that would significantly boost Los Angeles’ title chances without adding future salary? Keep dreaming, Lakers fans.

A much more plausible and depressing scenario for Los Angeles is to hold Westbrook past the trade deadline, let his albatross out of a contract expire, and enter free agency with only James, Anthony Davis and rookie Max. Christie on the books for 2023-24.

Squandering what could be James’ final All-NBA basketball season for $40 million in cap space is a pill that might be too hard to swallow. On the other hand, locking yourself into an aging, expensive, and possibly mediocre core by trading Westbrook — plus those first two unprotected rounds, remember — for high-profile players like Myles Turner and Buddy Hield could create an even darker timeline for the Lakers.

Until James and Davis find themselves among the league’s true upper echelons, Los Angeles is going nowhere.

You hardly need an anonymous executive to address the Lakers’ potential interest in a player like Andrew Wiggins. But aside from his place next to James and Davis, too many stars would have to line up for the purple and gold to be considered a serious threat to luring Wiggins out of Golden State at this point in the league cycle.

No worries, though. At least the random member of the front office will surely be back to provide more speculative fodder throughout 2022-23.

[Sean Deveney, Heavy Sports]

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