After acquiring Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster trade last week, the Los Angeles Lakers will be tasked with building a roster around Davis and LeBron James in free agency. Luckily, the team still has a good amount of cap space to assemble a decent supporting cast. How much? That depends on a few things.
If the Lakers can convince the Pelicans to delay the trade until July 30, they will have $32.5 million in cap space, enough to lure a max-level free agent to Los Angeles. However, all signs point to the trade being completed by July 6.
The only other way the Lakers could open up a max slot in free agency would be to trade everyone on the roster except for James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma, but a third team would have to get involved and Davis would have to waive his $4 million trade kicker. While neither of those things is impossible, it doesn’t sound like the Lakers have pursued them just yet.
According to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, the Lakers haven’t asked Davis to waive his no-trade clause at any point of the negotiation process, limiting their spending power in free agency:
As B/R’s Eric Pincus explained, the Lakers could have just $23.6 million in cap room—well short of a max salary slot—if the deal is consummated July 6, per the initial terms of the trade. But they could have up to $32.5 million if the deal were executed in August.
Those figures are also affected by Davis’ so-called trade kicker of $4.1 million. The Lakers could have asked Davis to waive the kicker as part of the deal. Per league sources, they never broached it.
This might seem like a mistake from the front office, and it may very well be, but if the Lakers don’t have a commitment from an All-Star free agent yet, there’s no reason for them to ask their superstar player to take a paycut. $4 million might be enough to get a solid contributor in free agency, but it’s not worth ruffling anyone’s feathers over.
If the Lakers do get a commitment from someone like Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler on the first day of free agency, then there’s reason to be optimistic that the front office will have a discussion with Davis about waiving his trade kicker. However, they have a few hoops they have to jump through before they can start having those discussions. Hopefully Rob Pelinka and Co. can put the Lakers in the best position to succeed.