Despite not being able to convince the New Orleans Pelicans to move the Anthony Davis trade back to July 30, the Los Angeles Lakers still have a path to opening up a max slot in free agency, however, it would require that they send the salaries of Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to a third team. Could the Minnesota Timberwolves be that third team?
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Timberwolves are trying to move up to the No. 4 spot in Thursday’s draft, making them a contender to become the third team in the Davis deal:
The Timberwolves have been aggressive in their attempts to move up in the draft from No. 11 and are among the teams that have discussed acquiring No. 4 from New Orleans, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 20, 2019
It’s not just Minnesota’s interest in the pick that makes them an intriguing candidate, though.
As salary cap guru Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report noted on Wednesday, the Timberwolves have a trade exception worth $2.66 million that can be used to absorb Wagner’s $2.06 million contract. Additionally, the Lakers can send Jones’ minimum deal to Minnesota and the Timberwolves wouldn’t have to send salary back.
The only small obstacle the Lakers would face in this hypothetical scenario is Bonga’s contract. Here’s Pincus to break it down:
Conversely, even though Bonga is making the minimum next season at $1.4 mil - he is not on a minimum contract - because he's on a 3-yr deal - by definition, min. contracts are for fewer than 3 years https://t.co/4lp3F7vofp— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 20, 2019
And so a team needing to trade for Bonga would either need a trade exception for his $1.4 mil salary - or they would need to send a player.— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 20, 2019
The problem for the Lakers, they can't take players back if they want cap room - so that would either fall on the Pelicans or another team altogether https://t.co/OgxVhEykcT— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 20, 2019
So this would be legal - Bonga/Mo/Jones to the Wolves for either Cameron Reynolds (have to guarantee) or Bates-Diop - but then that player has to go to the Pels or a 4th team if they won't take 'em.— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 20, 2019
Is there any guarantee that the Pelicans would agree to those terms? No, but it’s possible, if not probable, which is what’s important for the Lakers in their pursuit of a max slot.
If the Timberwolves do enter the mix for the No. 4 pick on Thursday, expect Pelinka to try and lure them into the deal.