In the immediate aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers finalizing the details on their blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, there was a lot of reporting on who the team would go after next, because it appeared they had maintained enough room for another maximum contract. Would they chase Kemba Walker? Try to woo Kyrie Irving? The possibilities seemed endless, for about 9-10 hours at least.
That’s when the news came down from Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN: It appears that the Lakers were not able to convince the New Orleans Pelicans to wait to finalize the deal, and it will probably be completed on July 6. That, combined with their reporting that Davis will most likely not waive his trade kicker, means that the Lakers will probably not have anywhere close to max cap space in free agency.
For now, expectation is Anthony Davis trade will be completed on July 6, league sources tell @BobbyMarks42 and me. Assuming Davis declines to void $4M trade bonus, this leaves Lakers with $23.7M in space. There is chance that could be amended to July 30, but it’s still 6th now.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2019
The Anthony Davis trade will be completed July 6, per @wojespn. Lakers cap room will depend upon whether Anthony Davis takes his $4.1M trade bonus. If so, they’d have up to $23.7M. If not, they’d have up to $27.7M (enough for a 25% max).— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) June 16, 2019
.@BobbyMarks42 on ESPN just now: "The early inclination is that Anthony Davis will not waive his 15% trade bonus."— Jeff Siegel (@jgsiegel) June 16, 2019
That puts the Lakers right at that 23.7M number, rather than the 27.8ish they could have had if he had waived it.
He can still choose to waive it before July 6. https://t.co/lRsxgN9TWf
So, full disclosure, I’m not a cap expert. So I reached out to Jeff (@jgsiegel) — a cap wizard who runs the excellent and must-use earlybirdrights.com — to explain this to me as simply as possible, and I wanted all of you to see it as well, just in case you (like me) need some help to wrap your head around all these numbers, and why they mean what they mean.
Jeff, take it away:
There are two ways to do this trade, from a timing perspective. Either the Lakers and Pelicans can execute the deal on July 6, or wait until the end of July. Moving forward with it on July 6 means that Los Angeles has to use cap space to take in Davis. Using cap space to trade for a player means a team can ignore the usual salary-matching rules and simply use the space available to them to trade for the player. The Lakers will have more than enough cap space to cover Davis’s salary because Ball, Ingram, and Hart will be off the team and off their books.
The second path is to wait until late July and complete the trade as an over-the-cap team. This would mean holding onto Ball, Ingram, Hart and the picks they’re sending to New Orleans for the month of July and behaving, from a cap space perspective, as if that trade isn’t happening.
In this scenario, they’d have the cap space they would have had if the Davis deal wasn’t happening at all, about $32.5 million. Then, after they used all their space, the trade would be made official, but this time the Lakers would have to abide by the salary matching rules, since they wouldn’t have the cap space to just take Davis. Matching Davis’s new $31.2 million salary (after his trade bonus, he counts at the new value in a trade) requires the Lakers to cobble together at least $24.8 million in salary, since teams at that level are allowed to take back up to 125 percent (plus $100,000) of the salary they send out. Ball, Ingram, and Hart don’t make enough money by themselves to add up to $24.8 million, but adding in the No. 4 overall pick’s salary makes the math work. The issue there is that draft picks can’t be traded until 30 days after they’ve signed their first contract, which would push the trade to late July at the earliest.
The Lakers and Pelicans have decided to move forward with the trade on July 6, rather than waiting until late July 30, which will eliminate about $8.9 million of the Lakers’ available cap space this summer, leaving them with $23.7 million.
That is... not enough to sign Irving, Walker, Kawhi Leonard, or any other max-level free agent unless they take a massive paycut (unlikely), or the Lakers dump some more salary (possible, but still wouldn’t get them to max cap space, so probably also unlikely). And before you start talking about this being fine because the Lakers can just acquire role players for depth, understand that this summer will be a seller’s market, with tons of teams having cap space and role players becoming more expensive overpays as a result.
The elephant in the room here is that, as Woj mentioned above, it apparently is still possible that the two teams could wait to complete the deal, or for Davis to waive his kicker. But if Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka didn’t already negotiate the first part of that into the deal, it’s pretty unclear why the Pelicans would wait. Surely David Griffin is not looking to go out of his way to help the Lakers create a superteam when he doesn’t have to, so right now his incentive to do so doesn’t seem to be there.
As for the Davis part of this, the Lakers have worked extensively with his agent Rich Paul, who also represents LeBron James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. If there haven’t already been signals that Davis will waive his kicker, that probably isn’t happening, either.
So where does that leave the Lakers? With this trade not looking as great as it did yesterday, for one, although as noted above, that could change again if Davis ultimately does waive the kicker and the trade completion date is pushed back. But how that wasn’t already agreed to as part of the conditions of the haul Pelinka is already sending New Orleans, with pick swap options that will likely take place after LeBron James retires or leaves, is sort of baffling. If this is how things ultimately shake out, it would appear that somehow not even acquiring a top-five to top-ten player can be an infallible win for this front office.
If you want to listen to Jeff and I talk about this, check out the latest episode of the Silver Screen and Roll podcast below. You can also subscribe to our feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow me on Twitter at @hmfaigen.