According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA notified teams that there will be a salary cap of $125 million in 2021, a $16 million increase from last summer’s salary cap. The cap will also raise $7 million next season, but the Lakers won’t have any cap space if they re-sign Anthony Davis to a five-year, max contract worth $34.8 million in the first year.
Assuming Davis re-signs and the four players that have player options — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo — opt in, the Lakers will have roughly $125 million in guaranteed salaries on their books next summer. If Davis doesn’t re-sign, Los Angeles will have just $5 million in dead salary on their books the following summer.
For our sake, we’re going to assume Davis does re-sign, which would increase the Lakers’ total guaranteed salaries to $41,450,000. Then, there’s LeBron James’ $41 million player option, which would bump their bill up to roughly $81.5 million.
$125 million − $81.5 million = $43.5 million in cap space. Not too shabby, right? Unfortunately, that figure isn’t an entirely accurate depiction of the type financial flexibility the Lakers will have going in 2021.
Along with Davis and James’s contracts (and Luol Deng’s cap hit), the Lakers will also have Kyle Kuzma’s $10.6 million cap hold on their books, limiting their spending power to $32.9 million. While that might be enough to nab Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan or Blake Griffin at a discount, it’s not enough to offer players like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Bradley Beal their full max, which would start at $37.5 million.
In other words, if it’s Antetokounmpo the Lakers want, they’ll have to do one of three things:
- Renounce their rights Kuzma, making him an unrestricted free agent.
- Convince a max free agent to take a discount to join a team of James, Davis and Kuzma.
- Convince James to return at a discount and re-pay him the following summer using his bird rights.
- Move on from James.
Granted, some of these decisions might be already made by the time 2021 rolls around with the amount of roster movement that goes on in the NBA, but it’s something worth keeping tabs on until then.