This past summer, the Los Angeles Lakers gave up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick, two future first-round picks and a pick swap in 2023 in their trade for Anthony Davis. That’s a lot to give up for a player on an expiring contract — even if said player is Davis, a six-time All-Star and three-time block champion — and some have even argued it’s too much.
However, the team’s general manager doesn’t see Davis as flight risk next summer. In fact, during an interview with Justin Termine of SiriusXM NBA Radio, Pelinka said the Lakers carefully calculated their salary cap to build a contender around Davis in both the near and distant future:
“You know, Justin — I hear all the time — they’re like, “Oh, well you gave up the future to get Anthony Davis.” But it’s interesting: Anthony Davis is 26, right? So he, to me, represents both the now, and the way we designed our cap — if you study it — we have a roster that we feel like is really, really competitive now, but also (has) cap flexibility to add potentially another star player when Anthony is in his prime. So, we really thought hard about how we wanted to build our cap.”
Assuming Davis signs a five-year, max contract with the Lakers that’s worth $34.8 million in the first year, Los Angeles will have $98 million in committed salaries next season, not including the player options for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo. That projection also doesn’t include Quinn Cook’s non-guaranteed salary worth $3 million. If everyone is brought back, that number jumps to $130 million under a projected $116 million salary cap.
In layman’s terms, they’ll have little-to-no spending power for next summer’s free agency period, but that’s not such a big deal because of how few high-profile names are expected to become available. The following summer is a different story.
In 2021, when Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal and several others are expected to hit the open market, the Lakers are projected to have up to $42.3 million in cap space. Granted, they’d have to renounce the rights to Kyle Kuzma to get to that number, but that’s a marginal cost if it means pairing Davis and James with any one of the aforementioned players. Even if the Lakers did decide to hold onto Kuzma’s $10.6 million cap hold, they’d still have $32.9 million, which could be enough to lure Davis’ good friend and former Pelicans teammate Jrue Holiday back home to Los Angeles.
In any case, Pelinka and Co. have set the Lakers up well for the future, but just how bright their future is depends on whether or not they get a commitment from Davis next summer. Suffice to say, the Lakers and their fans are hoping everything goes well over the next nine months.