Trae Young to Lakers? Klutch Signing Ramps Up Speculation

Lakers star LeBron James hugs Hawks guard Trae Young

Getty Lakers star LeBron James hugs Hawks guard Trae Young

For NBA players, the equation is simple: Sign with Klutch Sports and you will find yourself linked to the Lakers. It has happened with Sixers star Ben Simmons. It happened, too, with former Pelicans star Anthony Davis—and we saw how that worked out.

The latest is Atlanta guard Trae Young, who joined Rich Paul’s agency last weekend. Young had been with Octagon but signed with Klutch after his agent at Octagon, Omar Wilkes, also went to Klutch. Speculation began almost immediately, suggesting that Young would somehow land in Los Angeles to team with LeBron James, the on-court face of Klutch Sports, in the coming years.

Of course, that would be an enormous score for the Lakers. Young averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists this year, his second in the NBA. He is only 21 and has an All-Star appearance under his belt. There are few players his age with as much promise as Young has shown.

It also would be nearly impossible to get Young to L.A., at least not in the next few years when he could actually play with James. The Hawks have no intention of trading Young, who is still on his rookie contract and is two years from an extension, and the Lakers have nothing to send back to Atlanta, anyway, having cleared out its cupboard of assets to bring in Davis last year.

In an interview with The Athletic, Young’s father, Rayford Young, addressed the Lakers-Klutch speculation.

“I wish people would look at his history,” Rayford Young said. “He’s never been a follower. … This whole thing with Klutch never had anything to do with going to play with the Lakers one day. They have a lot of people on their roster who aren’t with the Lakers.”

Klutch-Anthony Davis Saga Scarred the NBA

Sure, the elder Young is right. But the Lakers do now have four Klutch clients, including one important player who did join the Lakers last year, Davis. The reverberations of the Davis move have left lingering trauma around the league. Davis, remember, signed with Klutch in September 2018 while he was still with New Orleans and, four months later, Rich Paul was prodding the Pelicans to trade Davis to the Lakers so he could join with James.

The entire Davis experience scarred several teams in the league, starting with the Lakers, who appeared to be teaming with Klutch to bully a small market into trading a star. The Pelicans were the most damaged by it and by the end of 2018-19 the organization was in a shambles. Teams that had been interested in trading for Davis, like Boston and New York, also were left reeling.

In the NBA’s Manhattan offices, there was much consternation about the way the Davis saga unfolded. Commissioner Adam Silver later said that the way Davis and Klutch handled the situation, “backfired.” The league’s most prominent commentator, Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, said any Davis deal should be, “vetoed.”

Trae Young LIkely Remaining a Hawk For a While

The result is that when a player like Young signs with the agency, the rest of the league will get a bit nervous that we are seeing Anthony Davis 2.0.

The way that NBA contract rules are designed, though, almost guarantee that Young will be sticking around Atlanta for a while. Young will be eligible for an extension after the 2020-21 season, a deal that will kick in the following year, the final year of his rookie deal. Assuming he stays healthy, it is a near-lock that the Hawks will offer him a max contract.

No one turns down that first max deal, even if they are unhappy in their current locale—and Young does not appear to be unhappy, at least not yet. It is a player’s first real chance at a nine-figure deal and turning it down in hopes of becoming a free agent means a player would have to risk injury for an entire year and, once he hit free agency, would have to sign a smaller contract for fewer years.

Young is not going to do that. Just like Simmons signed a five-year maximum extension with the Sixers in July 2016, pretty much as soon as he could make the deal official, Young will leap at the chance to re-up with the Hawks.

It is possible that Young could follow the same path that Davis followed—play seven years in Atlanta and pressure the team to trade him when he approaches free agency.  The league has seen that pattern repeatedly over the years from its star players, including the likes of Paul George in Indiana, Kevin Love in Minnesota, and Dwight Howard in Orlando, going all the way back to Vince Carter leaving Toronto 15 years ago.

For Young, that can happen in 2025. James will be 40. Maybe the Lakers will get Young. Much will change between now and then, however.

READ NEXT: Agent Casts Doubt on Lakers’ Anthony Davis Signing Long-Term Deal

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