The Los Angeles Lakers have kept busy this offseason. They began the summer by trading away D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov in a salary dump, acquiring Brook Lopez’ expiring contract and a first-round pick. Then, they acquired four new players through the draft, selecting Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Thomas Bryant.
As we await news on whether the team will make another trade to acquire Pacers’ star Paul George, the next item on the agenda is free agency. The team has been adamant that it will stay mostly quiet this July, opting instead to save cap space for 2018 when George and several other superstar talents may hit the open market.
Nevertheless, the Lakers have holes to fill and money to spend, meaning they will still be players in free agency regardless of the extent.
Here at Lakers Outsiders, we are getting you ready with a week-long primer on free agency before teams can begin pitching to players on July 1. The team’s current situation, including cap space and key free agents, will be detailed before our writers make their cases for several free agents they would like to see on the Lakers.
Cap Space – Honi Ahmadian and Jacob Rude
The Lakers have made it well known that their goal is to maximize cap space in 2018. That means it’s highly unlikely that they sign anyone to multi-year contracts. But they do have the space and flexibility to offer larger one-year deals in order to convince free agents to take short-term contracts.
As it stands, the Lakers have 10 players under contract for a combined $79,394,787, leaving the team just under $20 million shy of the NBA’s projected 99 million dollar salary cap.
That figure, however, does not include seven cap holds. Four of those belong to Lakers’ free agents (Nick Young, Metta World Peace, Tyler Ennis, Thomas Robinson) who are unlikely to return, making it possible for the Lakers to renounce their Bird rights and free up more space for free agent signings. (Bird rights are typically used to allow incumbent teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their free agents.)
The other three cap holds, totaling $9,104,640 belong to the Lakers’ three first-round selections in the draft. Cap holds limit the Lakers’ spending power, giving them a maximum of about 10 million dollars in space. The good news is the team can go over the salary cap to sign its rookies, giving them the full space (and potentially another 6.7 million if they waive Tarik Black before the Fourth of July) to use in free agency.
That’s a lot of numbers, we know, so here are some handy graphics to put it in a more visual format. The thing to note is that the Lakers are working with a maximum value of about 17 million dollars in cap space, contingent on waiving Black (or trading him without getting any contracts back) and assuming that David Nwaba’s option is picked up.All cap space data via Spotrac
Lakers’ Free Agents – Deanna Chapman
There are a few players for the Lakers who hit free agency this summer. Nick Young recently opted out of his extension. That gives the Lakers $5.7 million more to work with at the moment and could help them in their pursuit of a big name player. It feels unlikely that the Lakers will turn around and offer him more money, so there’s a good chance that, come the beginning of the season, we’ll be seeing Swaggy P elsewhere. The other vet who technically hits free agency is Metta World Peace. His low amount of playing time could indicate that he just might retire. At 37 years old, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would hold it against him if he did. Plus, he’s already busy releasing some music.
Tyler Ennis and Thomas Robinson hit free agency for the Lakers, too. At the moment, it looks like David Nwaba adds $1.3 million to the books for next season. Should the Lakers offer new contracts to Ennis or Robinson? Probably not. Robinson plays a position that the Lakers already have filled. If anything, the team needs more guards right now.
Ennis has already bounced around the league quite a bit. He wouldn’t be the best back up available to the team, so I wouldn’t count on seeing him back next season. The only reason I’d see the Lakers signing him would be if they planned to use him as a trade piece. Overall, the Lakers have their main guys signed through next season at least and they likely won’t worry much about these players in free agency.
Positions of Need – Thai Luong
The current roster composition of the Lakers is unbalanced. More than half of the team is comprised of centers and power forwards: Ivica Zubac, Brook Lopez, Thomas Bryant, Larry Nance, Jr., Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, Tarik Black, and Thomas Robinson. The Lakers must decide sometimes next week if they are going to keep Black (who has a nonguaranteed deal past July 4) and bring back Robinson who is a free agent. Even if the Lakers decide to let Black and Robinson go, there will still be a congested frontcourt.
The goal for the Lakers during free agency is to add more depth and support for their backcourt positions. As much as the Lakers are jammed in their frontcourt, the same can’t be said for their depleted backcourt. Currently, the backcourt is comprised of Jordan Clarkson, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and David Nwaba. The Lakers will decide if they want to pick up Nwaba’s contract for the next season sometimes this week.
Although the Lakers see a lot of potential in Ball, he will still be entering the NBA as an inexperienced rookie playing one of the most difficult positions at point guard. Ideally, the Lakers should sign a veteran point guard that can be trusted to run the offense and provide valuable guidance and mentorship to Ball. It would be a huge plus if their target player(s) can also interchange between the point and shooting guard position since the Lakers like their players to be versatile.
In addition to finding a veteran point guard, the Lakers should also look to add another wing to replace the offensive production from Nick Young, who declined his player option and will be a free agent this summer. Since the Lakers are looking to preserve their cap space for the summer of 2018, look for them to seek out cheap options at the wing position. Preferably, the Lakers can bring in a wing player who can defend and knock down open shots.
Realistically, whoever the Lakers go after this summer won’t be a huge name player because of their inclination to save money for next summer. It would be best for the Laker this summer to bring in backcourt depth and versatility at the wing position.
Free Agent Profiles – Staff
This section will be populated with links to profiles of several free agents that the Lakers could pursue this summer. Check back throughout the week leading up to July 1st for more articles!
K.J. McDaniels – Thai Luong
Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark – Jacob Rude
Thabo Sefolosha – Honi Ahmadian
Justin Holiday – Dillon Hiser