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The Lakers’ pursuit to two max spots in the summer of 2018 has had a Luol Deng-sized caveat on it since the moment Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson announced their intentions.
Deng and his contract represent a nearly $40 million hurdle the Lakers have to overcome in order to take the next step toward maximum cap space.
The most likely solution has generally been considered trading Deng and attaching assets in the form of picks and young players to him to entice the receiving team into burdening their cap with Deng’s contract.
With Deng out of the rotation, the talks about Deng’s future have heated up thanks to he himself asking out of Los Angeles in past weeks. According to Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, the asking price for Deng would likely involve Julius Randle and a first round draft pick.
As ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne recently reported, Deng would welcome a move out of Los Angeles since he’s well outside of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation. If up to 10 franchises have the cap space necessary to take on Deng’s contract, what kind of price would the Lakers have to pay to make a deal?
“I would say a [first-round pick] with a good chance to convey in the lottery,” said an executive with another franchise. “I would say that’s in addition to Julius Randle unless the protections were very favorable to the receiving team.”
In reality, this is a much, much lower asking price for Deng than I thought given a handful of circumstances. As previously mentioned, Deng wants out of L.A. and other teams know that, though it’s not like the Lakers had much negotiating power in this situation anyway.
Secondly, the Lakers and Julius Randle have long seemed headed down separate paths, something that was recently reiterated by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
If the Lakers can turn two pieces they don’t see as part of the future into cap space with only the cost of one first round pick, then the Lakers could be in a far better position than previously thought.
It’s worth noting that Pincus’ article mentions a different solution that involves the Lakers extending Luol Deng for no money, then stretching him this summer. The result would be a much lower cap hit over a longer span of time, helping the Lakers reach two max slots in a much simpler fashion.
Pincus explains in great length why this might be a wise move for the Lakers and it’s an article worth checking out, but the Lakers’ situation with Deng seems to be coming to a head in the near future and in the coming months at a minimum.