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How the NBA’s new salary cap projection affects the Lakers

The team has slightly less space than previously thought.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers’ dreams of snagging a superstar are hardly a secret. Team Governor For Life (official title possibly pending) Jeanie Buss recently said that she would be heartbroken if the team didn’t have an All-Star when the game came to Los Angeles in 2018.

The avenue to actually grab a max-caliber player just got every so slightly tighter, thanks to a change in the NBA’s estimated salary cap. Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reported Thursday that “the NBA has delivered teams a new salary cap projection for the 2017-18 season” and that their projection is $101 million. As Wojnarowski notes, “the cap is $94.1M this season.”

Wojnarowki’s reported cap number is about $1 million less than prior projections, which wouldn’t mean very much if the Lakers didn’t already have such a perilous path to max level cap space.

Under that new cap number, a player with 7-9 years of NBA experience would be due for a max of around $30 million, with players of 10+ in line for around $35 million (according to my envelope math).

If the Lakers want to get a guy like that this summer, it will require some gymnastics:

It never seemed incredibly likely the Lakers were going to get a superstar on a max contract this summer anyway, and they could always stretch Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov if they got desperate to create space, or make other trades along the margins.

However, what seems much more likely is the team keeping their powder dry to target Indiana Pacers star and Los Angeles native Paul George the following summer, although the math may be even tighter there with a potential extension for Julius Randle coming up. Those Deng and Mozgov deals continue to look worse and worse by the day, and may haunt the Lakers for a while.

Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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