So, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that, barring something catastrophic, Anthony Davis will suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night in October. The bad news is that building a roster around them is going to be hard, and signing a max-level free agent is going to be even harder.
As it stands, the Lakers are projected to have $23.7 million in cap space, assuming Davis declines to waive his trade bonus and the trade is completed on July 6. If the Pelicans agreed to push the trade date back to July 30 and Davis waived his trade bonus, the Lakers would have $32.5 million to spend in free agency, enough to entice an All-Star free agent like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker to come to Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like David Griffin has any interest in helping the Lakers improve this summer.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Pelicans have made it clear that they intend on completing the trade no later than July 6, forcing the Lakers to pursue other, more costly avenues to open up a max slot:
The Lakers could have asked New Orleans to wait to complete the deal July 30, when the salary for the No. 4 pick could have been included in the trade, allowing the Lakers’ outgoing salary to fall within 125% of Davis’ salary with or without the bonus, making the trade possible. In that scenario, Los Angeles would have been able to use $32.5 million in cap space for free agents before finalizing the move.
But the Pelicans are unwilling to move the trade back to July 30, according to league sources. As a result, the Lakers are now exploring the option of shedding the salaries of the remainder of the roster (except for Kyle Kuzma), including Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones. Jones’ $1.4 million contract would need to be guaranteed to be included as part of the trade.
Pelinka’s biggest strength as an executive is supposed to be his understanding of the CBA, but an oversight of this magnitude leads one to believe he still has a little bit of learning to do. Now, the hope is that he can use his rumored understanding of the CBA to do some cap gymnastics and put the Lakers in a position to land a max-level free agent.
Sure, the end result will likely be a roster with just James, Davis and an All-Star free agent, but if the All-Star free agent is Kawhi Leonard, will it be viewed as that big of a deal? We’ll find out in less than two weeks.