Kawhi Leonard’s Free Agency Could Leave Lakers in Brutal Spot

Kawhi Leonard Lakers Free Agency

Getty Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors reacts after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks.

Entering the fifth day of Kawhi Leonard’s free agency, the Klaw the last remaining premier free agent and his lack of a decision is holding up a number of other free agent signings. More than holding up individual players, Kawhi’s decision – or lack thereof – could cause an interesting salary cap situation for the Lakers should his decision bleed into Sunday.

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Kawhi Leonard’s Free Agency Could Leave Lakers in Brutal Spot

If Kawhi continues to hold out on his free agency decision beyond the end of the moratorium (noon July 6th) then the Lakers risk the possibility of losing their max slot. The Lakers need to officially sign a max free agent BEFORE the Anthony Davis trade in order to be able to make things work and the Pelicans likely don’t want to sit around all summer waiting for the “all-clear” from the Lakers to make the deal official.

In addition to needing to make the Anthony Davis trade official, the Lakers also would be on the hook to sign both Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels – who agreed to minimum contracts as the Lakers assumed they would be able to sign Kawhi first. Both of those would cut into the remaining salary cap space as the Lakers would not be at or above the cap.

While the Lakers can navigate this by attempting to push back the Davis deal and pulling their minimum offers to Daniels and Dudley, it creates a major pain and further sets back the Lakers’ free agency plans and ability to build out a quality supporting cast.

Lakers’ Salary Cap Flexibility With or Without Kawhi Leonard

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If the Lakers wind up signing Kawhi, they won’t have much salary cap flexibility at all. In fact, the Lakers would be limited to signing purely players on veteran minimum contracts and to the “room exception” (worth $4.7 million). While the free agent market has dried up considerably, there are still a number of players willing to take a minimum deal to chase rings on a team featuring LeBron, AD, and Kawhi – the Lakers should be able to fill out a competent supporting cast here.

If the Lakers lose out on Kawhi, they won’t have a max free agent slot available but will be a bit more liquid in terms of their free agent spending money. They could target a player like DeMarcus Cousins or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – both of whom are expected to sign for above the league minimum. Outside of those two, not many non-minimum free agents remain on the market and should the Lakers lose out on Leonard, they are left out in the cold to fill out an extra roster spot alongside Davis and James.

Either way, the Lakers will have missed out on one of NBA history’s deepest free agency crops – so let’s hope the gamble for Kawhi Leonard was worth it.