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The Lakers may not have been as unaware of the salary cap ramifications of the Anthony Davis trade as previously thought

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It sounds like Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka didn’t mess up as bad as some thought during the Anthony Davis trade negotiations.

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NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last we left off on this story, it appeared Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers had seemingly overlooked the execution date on a trade for Anthony Davis that could cost them as much as $9 million in cap space. Such a scenario would be as devastating a blow as can be dealt to a front office landing such a prodigious talent.

According to Bill Oram of The Athletic, however, this does not appear to have been the case. Maybe. Possibly. Man, I don’t know.

During a Q and A with subscribers, Bill Oram of The Athletic was asked if the Lakers had really not understood the salary cap ramifications of the Anthony Davis trade as currently constructed, and he said his understanding was that they were more aware of things than has been presented elsewhere:

OK, so I’ll try to answer this once and then move on, but I’m sure this is the most pressing thing on the minds of Lakers fans. My sense from those on the inside is that this is not the catastrophe it has been represented as elsewhere. The Lakers are not panicking about the timing of the trade or their ability to open up a max slot. They expect they will know whether any top free agents are interested in teaming up with AD/LeBron well before July 6, which gives them time to rework the deal or open up additional space to accommodate that player, whether it’s Kawhi or Jimmy Butler or whomever.

Was this some big blunder by Rob Pelinka the neophyte? I just don’t see it that way. The most important objective for the Lakers was to secure Anthony Davis and not lose him to the Celtics or some other team. That would have been the ultimate catastrophe. So, they took care of priority 1A, which set the FLOOR for their offseason. So now they have both Anthony Davis and at WORST the $24 million in cap space. Upon the time they agreed, they still had time to massage the mechanics of the deal if necessary and further incentivize a delay with cash or second round picks or whatever. Dumping Jemerrio Jones/Moe Wagner/Isaac Bonga in advance would also seem imprudent. If you need their $$ to sign Kyrie, then it makes sense to sacrifice them. If not, and you’re trying to build out a roster, these are young players on team-controlled contracts who the team has worked to develop.

I’m not sure if that answers every wrinkle to this story, but I guess the bottomline here would be that the Lakers are not behaving as though they got hoodwinked or Rob was out of his depth on this. It’s evolving though.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN seemed to confirm this as well:

So as of right now, there are a few possible scenarios (well, there are technically endless possible scenarios, but still):

The first scenario we learned was one born of incompetence, and the Lakers were now trying to make up for said misstep with additional assets.

Oram now paints a picture in which the Lakers did what had to be done to get the deal done and would re-approach the subject of cap space should a clearer picture of what they would do with said space present itself. The optimism from this scenario (other than finding out that maybe Pelinka isn’t useless) is that the Lakers might have heard something about a potential use of the additional cap space they would gain by throwing in additional assets.

To Oram’s point, Bobby Marks of ESPN seems to think reality is probably closer to the second scenario than the first:

There’s also a third scenario where the Lakers work the deal from the get-go in a way that allows them to free up all the space as a result of committing so many assets to landing Davis, but that appears never to have been possible thanks to how desperate David Griffin knew the Lakers were to get a deal done.

Now, there’s obviously something to be said about prioritizing cap space over guys like Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones in the first place, but if New Orleans just wasn’t interested, there isn’t much Pelinka could have done. Even as it stands now, if the Lakers and Atlanta Hawks are able to work out a deal, they could still get to max cap space, but New Orleans would have to agree to that, too — though I find it a lot easier for New Orleans to relent in this regard now that a third organization is a part of negotiations beyond just the Lakers, as well as the fact that doing so might create max cap space for them:

As it has been from the start, this is an extremely fluid situation, so we’ll keep you as informed as we possibly can. I would love to one day find out what Shelburne was hearing to make her (and others I had spoken to) think the Lakers had just bungled this thing. At the very worst, on July 6, we might get something close to the full story.

Maybe. Possibly. Hell I don’t know.

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