Few teams, if any, have more on the line than the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. The organization has had their eyes set on the 2018 NBA offseason for some time, hoping to use their available cap space to land at least one, and possibly two, of the game-changing free agents that would be available.

LeBron James and Paul George are the team’s top targets. The Lakers can’t publicly discuss their pursuit of those players, but it’s no secret that’s whom they are after, hoping both All-Stars will opt out of their current contracts so they can join forces in L.A.

Los Angeles is the only destination that can conceivably offer both players max contracts under the salary cap. There’s been speculation since last season that George would return home to California to wear the purple and gold. Rumors of James going to the Lakers began during the 2017 NBA Finals, and they’ve only heated up since the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors for a third time in four years.

The Lakers are the overwhelming favorites to sign both James and George. Plenty of fans would be disappointed if neither one is playing his home games at Staples Center next season.

That doesn’t worry Lakers legend and now team president Magic Johnson. He answered questions about the offseason Tuesday as Los Angeles introduced their newest draft picks, indicating that the team has two summers to build a title contender.

 

Earlier this past season, ESPN reported that the Lakers were shifting their focus to the summer of 2019. That’s when players like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler will be eligible to become free agents.

But it was just a couple of days later that the Lakers made a trade with the Cavaliers, from whom they are now hoping to lure James. The deal helped L.A. clear even more cap space, making it easier for them to sign two max free agents. George indicated at the time that he was seriously considering re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, though that was before the team didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

The Thunder remain confident that they can keep George, according to recent reports. The Cavs are considered the Lakers’ greatest threat in their pursuit of James, though the Philadelphia 76ers can’t be discounted as a landing spot for the NBA’s best player.

Let’s say both George and James stay put: there’s no guarantee that the Lakers will be able to add multiple stars next summer.

Leonard’s trade demand certainly makes things interesting, even though the superstar reportedly wants to play in L.A. The San Antonio Spurs are reportedly only interested in trading Leonard to an Eastern Conference team if they decide to ultimately part ways with the forward. Would Leonard leave a championship contender—and possible defending champion—like Philadelphia or Boston for the Lakers in 2019?

It’s hard to predict what will happen with Thompson in a year. The shooting guard has said he wants to stay with Golden State. The Warriors will have a hard time paying all four of their star players, but they will certainly try to find a way to keep the key members of their championship teams.

The Lakers haven’t had a winning season since 2013. It’s been six years since they last won a playoff game. Many have viewed the summer of 2018 as the light at the end of the tunnel for the storied franchise.

It’s up to James and George to decide if the Lakers have to wait in the darkness for another year.

Magic Johnson Lakers Magic Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations, stands with the team's 2018 NBA draft picks Moritz Wagner and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk during an introductory press conference at the UCLA Health Training Center on June 26, 2018 in El Segundo, California. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images