It took a little work to get it, but the Los Angeles Lakers finally have the cap space to sign a max-level free agent — or close to it, at least. While the Lakers are technically $700,000 short of the full, 30 percent max, it’s still feasibly enough money to get their top targets, Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard, to seriously consider them.
However, if Irving and Leonard sign elsewhere, the Lakers will reportedly use that cap space to fill out their roster, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
“For the Lakers, my understanding is they’ll spend that $32 million on a max player if it is Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving. If it’s not one of those two players, things get a little bit more complicated. They’d rather split it up. Now, there’s some discussion about Jimmy Butler, but it’s really Kawhi or Kyrie Irving.”
Over the past few months, the Lakers have been linked to a few players that are expected to get a max contract in free agency like Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker and the aforementioned Jimmy Butler, but it seems as though they’re not keen on investing big, long-term money in players that aren’t bona-fide superstars like Leonard and Irving. That’s not to say Middleton, Walker and Butler aren’t all talented players, but they might not be as valuable individually as three or four solid role players would be.
For example: Would the Lakers be better off with Butler, James, Davis, a player they can sign for the room exception (like George Hill) and a bunch of veteran’s minimum players, or Hill, JJ Redick, James, Davis, Brook Lopez and a legitimate backup point guard like Seth Curry? It’s debatable.
The Lakers will find out whether or not Irving or Leonard is on the way within the coming days. If it’s not one of those guys, expect them to offer long-term deals to shooters, wing defenders and big men to make use of their remaining cap room.