While Focused On 2018, Lakers Have Multiple Free Agency Options This Year – Lakers Nation
The NBA offseason has already been a thrilling whirlwind of activity, with the Los Angeles Lakers smack in the middle of the beautiful chaos. They kicked things off by completing a trade that sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn in exchange for center Brook Lopez and rookie forward Kyle Kuzma, then pulled off a deal on draft night that landed them an extra pick that was used on Thomas Bryant.
Additionally, rumors have persisted about Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George winding up in Los Angeles sooner or later, which would give the franchise a much-needed star to build around.
With all of this activity, one would expect the start of free agency at 9 P.M. Pacific Time tonight to usher in another frenzy of moves, however, it appears that things should actually be fairly quiet from the Lakers.
Despite having nearly $18 million in cap space to play with (if they don’t pick up Tarik Black’s $6.6 million team option), Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are committed to saving money for next summer, when George, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and DeMarcus Cousins will be available.
The hope is that Johnson and Pelinka will succeed where Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak failed by convincing one (or maybe two!) of them to sign in Los Angeles.
Still, preserving cap space for next summer doesn’t mean that the Lakers will sit back and twiddle their thumbs during free agency, even though it does complicate things. Let’s take a look at the options that may still be available to them.
Absorb Expiring Contracts
Just because the Lakers have cap space, that doesn’t mean that they have to use it to sign players. As teams around the league make moves, they sometimes need more cap room than they have available, and the Lakers can be there to help them by taking on unwanted salary…for a price, of course.
Los Angeles has employed this tactic in the past, most notably when they picked up the first-rounder that became Larry Nance Jr. by taking on Jeremy Lin’s deal in 2014. Lin may be long gone, but Nance, the real prize, is now beloved in Los Angeles.
There is value to be gained by absorbing bad contracts, after all, the Nets just landed Russell largely because they were willing to take on the remaining three years on Timofey Mozgov’s bloated deal.
For the Lakers, however, their ability to take on salary is limited to players who only have one year remaining on their deals, as anything more than that would cut into their precious 2018 cap space, which is a non-starter.
As a result, the return for taking on a contract wouldn’t be substantial, but little moves can add up in the long run.
They are few and far between, but there are potential opportunities out there. For example, if the Miami Heat land a max free agent this summer they would need to free up some space, which the Lakers could help with by taking on the final year of Josh McRoberts’ deal in exchange for some sort of minor asset or two.
It may not happen, but it’s the kind of situation the Lakers should be searching for.
Overpay For One Year Deals
The Lakers roster, as currently constructed, has some major holes in it. Here’s a very early guess at a depth chart: