The Lakers are the team everyone is watching this summer as we near NBA free agency. Los Angeles has the most cap space in the league and has plans to try signing LeBron James and Paul George, while simultaneously working on a trade to bring Kawhi Leonard to Los Angeles as well.
Trade talks between the Lakers and Spurs have heated up, and the consensus is that LeBron will sign in L.A. if Leonard is there. However, the Spurs could very well drag out trade talks and even flip him elsewhere either for what they truly believe is a better offer or simply out of spite to keep him out of the Western Conference for a year and make the Lakers suffer.
There is a very real chance Paul George chooses to stay in Oklahoma City, which is part of the reason the Lakers are pressing as hard as they are for a Leonard trade right now. Should they miss on Leonard and George stay with the Thunder, it then becomes increasingly unlikely they land LeBron as well.
Magic Johnson has preached mild patience, saying the plan is to land stars over the next two summers, so if they strike out this summer they won’t panic and will look to reset and make another push in 2019. The question, though, is how do the Lakers proceed this summer with all of the cap space they have, to ensure they meet the salary cap floor in 2018-19 while also maintaining the necessary flexibility for 2019 free agency. That is what we will try to answer, looking at L.A.’s cap sheet as it stands now, the free agents available on the market, and possible trades that could yield them a big expiring contract.
The contracts L.A. has signed for 2018-19 totals $39,143,365 (including non-guaranteed contracts for Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubic, and Thomas Bryant).That leaves seven roster spots and $51.8 million to reach the cap floor. They will almost assuredly renounce rights to Brook Lopez ($33.9 million cap hold), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($21.3 million cap hold), and Channing Frye ($14.1 million cap hold), which gives them plenty of room to make trades and absorb money, even if they hold on to cap holds for Julius Randle and Isaiah Thomas that total just over $24 million.
Here are different ways the Lakers can fill out their roster and add significant expiring money to their cap sheet to still have tons of space for the summer of 2019: