The Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions but they’ve got a lot of question marks heading into the offseason. Thanks to a lot of mismanagement prior to Rob Pelinka taking over as general manager, the Lakers owe a lot of dead money to players who aren’t on the team. Luol Deng has been the biggest thorn in their side as he played a total of 57 games for the team and is now retired.
The Lakers owe Deng $5 million over the next two seasons, which isn’t a ton but it is a waste of cap space. According to The Atheltic’s Sham Charania, Los Angeles has requested a career-ending injury application which would hopefully remove his salary from the books.
If the NBA approves the application, it would appear the Lakers would still pay Deng, but it wouldn’t go against their cap. It sounds like a win-win for both sides. However, ESPN’s Bobby Marks believes that the Lakers don’t have much of a case.
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Key Players Lakers Need to Re-Sign
Any extra cap space would be a big help for the Lakers considering a large number of players are set to hit free agency. Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee are the most notable. Reports have indicated that Davis plans to stay in Los Angeles and he’s going to get paid as much as he wants. Davis is the most important player for the Lakers’ future, even more important than LeBron James.
The next highest priority should be Caldwell-Pope. He’s one of the longest-tenured Lakers right now and he stepped up in the NBA Finals. He averaged almost 13 points in his six games against the Miami Heat. It’s clear that he’s a very important role player on this team and they should do what they can to keep him. After an impressive Finals run, he should see a good amount of interest. The Lakers may have to end up giving him a pretty competitive offer.
What do the Lakers do with Rondo & Howard?
Out of all the Lakers’ expected free agents, Davis and Caldwell-Pope should be retained. However, things get a little more interesting with some of the other guys. Howard was a really good add for the Lakers last offseason. He left his ego at the door and was one of the most efficient players in the NBA. Now that he finally has his championship, he could look to go to another team that will pay him more money and gives him a bigger role.
The same goes for Rondo, who isn’t getting any younger. He very well could make money if he goes elsewhere. Rondo wasn’t much of a factor in the regular season but he was a stud in the playoffs. The Lakers would miss that playoff production if he left but it’s also hard to pay a lot of money to a guy who disappears for most of the year. Rondo and Howard could be on different teams this upcoming season.