The Los Angeles Lakers have been among the most vocal teams about wanting the NBA season to continue. It’s easy to understand why. They currently hold the best record in the Western Conference and the current group of players get along very well. Plus, the team is going to have a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason.
These guys have so many variables that it’s hard to know what to think – five Lakers have player options for next season, making cap planning a challenging exercise. Additionally, Dwight Howard is on a minimum deal with no Bird Rights. Assuming he’s too good to sign another minimum deal, it means the Lakers would have to use a chunk of their mid-level ($9.25 million) to re-sign him.
While some other teams have important calculations involving the luxury tax, one presumes the Lakers would be willing to cut a tax check in return for a championship. That’s an important variable, because if L.A. is willing to spend up to the hard cap apron (about $6 million over the luxury tax line) its options expand significantly. I’ve also assumed the Lakers will waive little-used Quin Cook, who only has $1 million of next season’s $3 million salary guaranteed, and stretch that payment.
What Will Other Lakers Vets do?
The Lakers have a little more flexibility with Dwight Howard and Quinn Cook, but things aren’t quite as simple with a number of other veterans as Hollinger points out:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo are reasonably paid and could just as easily opt in as not. It’s equally possible all four to opt out, which would give the Lakers $36 million in room from the tax, but also leave seven open roster spots to fill – at least a couple of which would need to be filled by re-signing the aforementioned players.
Using their full mid-level and bi-annual exceptions for two outside free agents, and signing minimums for two others, would leave L.A. about $20 million from the apron to try retaining two or three of the Caldwell-Pope/Bradley/McGee/Rondo quarter. Caldwell-Pope will have full Bird Rights and McGee and Rondo will have Early Bird rights, but L.A. can only offer a 20 percent raise to Bradley (limiting them to $5.7 million).
If this NBA season ends in a championship for Los Angeles, it’s unlikely the Lakers will want to shake things up too much. They’ll obviously tinker with things, but there’s a really good shot the team looks very familiar next season.
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Lakers Won’t Have Much Spending Money
Thanks to their current situation, the Lakers probably won’t have very much money to play around with this offseason. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the team as this year’s free-agent class is much weaker than the projected 2021 class. The Lakers should play it safe this year and save their money to potentially go after the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021.