It may seem like seven million years ago now, but just last month, a major topic of conversation surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers was whether or not the team understood the salary cap ramifications of the timing of the Anthony Davis trade.
To make a long story as short as possible, the Lakers’ trade for Anthony Davis — as originally constructed — would have left the team with between $24 million and $27 million in cap room if it was completed on July 6 (the end of the NBA’s moratorium on deals and the first day that teams can start officially signing free agents). The same trade, if completed on July 30 and with various other timing events, would have left the Lakers with $32 million in cap space to start free agency, but the Pelicans reportedly did not want to delay the trade, originally.
But now that the Lakers expanded the original deal to become a three-team trade that sends out Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones — and with Davis agreeing to waive his trade kicker — the team will be able to get to the $32 million needed to offer Kawhi Leonard a few thousand dollars short of a max contract, even if the trade is finalized on July 6 (after the Lakers theoretically signed Leonard).
Some with the Lakers felt it was “easily the dumbest” story of the summer, and while it was nice to have the phrase “trade execution date” behind us, it’s reared its head again, as if Leonard doesn’t make his decision on his next team by tomorrow — and Davis still waives his kicker — and the Lakers still complete their trade on Saturday, they’d be left with around $29 to $30 million in cap space, short of Leonard’s max contract.
Confused yet? Hopefully not, but even if this cap stuff is as hard for you to wrap your head around as it is for me, worry not, because it seems like the trade date may not be as inflexible as previously thought. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the other teams involved might be willing to delay as the Lakers wait on Leonard, even if it means some of their picks can’t play in summer league immediately as a result:
League sources told ESPN’s Bobby Marks that the Pelicans, Hawks and Wizards are expected to cooperate with the Lakers if Leonard is still undecided by noon on Saturday. The date was agreed upon initially in the Lakers’ and Pelicans’ deal sending Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks for Davis. The deal was based on the Lakers using the $32 million in cap space created on a max free agent, such as Leonard or on other players available.
If the Pelicans, Hawks and Wizards do not agree to delay the date to make the trade official past Saturday should Leonard remain undecided, the Lakers’ cap space would shrink to $30 million and Los Angeles would be able to offer Leonard only a four-year deal worth $127 million compared to the four-year, $138 million contract they can offer with $32 million available in cap space.
Would that lesser amount be enough to jeopardize Leonard joining on if he had already decided he wants to? Only Leonard knows that for sure, and he’s not saying. Still, as long as he either decides on Saturday morning, or the other teams involved agree to delay these various interwoven trades, it won’t be a concern for the Lakers.
If anyone gets antsy, it might cause issues, but with so many pieces being moved around — and especially with New Orleans having pending, already-agreed-upon deals using assets they acquired from the Lakers — all of these teams would seem to have no choice to wait on Leonard, just like the rest of us. Buckle up.
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