Jimmy Butler 76ers Lakers
Jimmy Butler #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks in front of Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Jan. 29, 2019. Harry How/Getty Images

Now that the Los Angeles Lakers have officially been eliminated from the playoff race, the biggest questions surrounding the team involve the 2019 NBA offseason. After failing to sign Paul George last summer and being unable to acquire Anthony Davis before February’s trade deadline, L.A. will, once again, look to pair a star player with LeBron James.

The Lakers will be in contention to sign the top free agents, but it’s become abundantly clear that it’s unlikely one of the league’s true superstars will decide to sign with the team.

There are countless rumors linking Kevin Durant to the New York Knicks and Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers. If Durant doesn’t sign with the Knicks, he might be more likely to consider the Brooklyn Nets or Clippers over the Lakers. The Lakers will be on Leonard’s radar, though the Toronto Raptors might be in the driver’s seat to re-sign him if the team makes a run to the 2019 NBA Finals.

Durant has noted that it can be a “toxic” environment for superstars that play alongside James. He’s expected to pursue a path that involves competing against James, not one that means teaming up with the NBA’s No.1 star.

Some rumors suggest that Leonard doesn’t want to play with James. It’s no secret that the Clippers are confident in their ability to land the two-time Defensive Player of the Year this summer.

What does that mean for the Lakers’ max salary slot? Klay Thompson isn’t an elite superstar, though his game might make him the perfect option as a second star to James. It will be stunning upset if Thompson leaves the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving is a perennial All-Star, though not a superstar on the level of Durant or Leonard. Maybe he’ll strongly consider the Lakers. The Knicks and Boston Celtics might have to be considered more probable options.

All of that leaves Jimmy Butler as the most likely All-Star caliber free agent to sign with the Lakers. It’s an idea that seems to be picking up steam with those who cover the league discussing what a James-Butler pairing might mean for Los Angeles’ chances in the 2019-2020 season and beyond.

Butler is playing for his third team in as many seasons after being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. When Philadelphia decided to deal valuable assets for Tobias Harris right before the trade deadline, it might have been a sign that the team is preparing for the four-time All-Star to walk as a free agent.

Teams will be wary of giving Butler a four-year, max contract because of his injury history and age. Butler will be 30 years old at the start of next season. Irving has also dealt with injuries, but he only just turned 27 years old.

If the Lakers miss out on the top free agents as expected, they might be willing to take a risk on Butler because James is now on the roster. After missing the postseason in six straight years, Los Angeles can’t afford to waste any more seasons in which James is still be among the NBA’s elite players.

Butler reportedly listed the Lakers among the teams he hoped the Minnesota Timberwolves might send him to last summer. He would be the clear No.2 on the Lakers. Butler is arguably the 76ers’ third-best player.

Butler is averaging 19.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in the 2018-2019 season.