The Los Angeles Lakers have requested a career-ending injury application for Luol Deng, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. If the NBA approves the Lakers’ application, the remainder of Deng’s salary will be removed from their books.
The Lakers signed Deng to a four-year, $72 million contract in the summer of 2016. That contract would have expired this offseason, but in 2018, Deng and the Lakers agreed to a buyout that saw Deng give back $7.5 million to become a free agent. The terms of that buyout allowed the Lakers to use the waive and stretch provision on the remainder of Deng’s contract, which cleared up the necessary cap for them to offer LeBron James a max contract.
Deng signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves shortly after he was waived by the Lakers, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers are exempt from applying for the application, as explained by salary cap expert Eric Pincus:
Deng didn't play 25 games, that's the threshold to make the request invalid. Lakers pass muster on that point https://t.co/eIH0yh1FWp— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) October 20, 2020
That being said, there are some that are skeptical that the Lakers’ request will be approved because he played after he was waived:
Re: Luol Deng and the LA Lakers— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) October 20, 2020
Considering that Deng went on to play 22 games with Minnesota in 2018/19, it will be extremely difficult to prove that Deng suffered a career ending injury with the Lakers.
Nothing wrong with applying but a long shot that his salary gets removed.
Deng is only due $5 million a year over the next two seasons, which isn’t a huge chunk of change on paper, but it could limit the Lakers’ spending power 2020 and 2021. For example, this offseason, it could be the difference between the Lakers retaining both of Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as opposed to just one of them. Then, in 2021 that extra $5 million could allow the Lakers to sign a 30% max free agent and retain Kyle Kuzma, assuming they don’t have anyone but LeBron James and Anthony under contract.
Again, $5 million is relatively small, but that salary cap relief would be a massive help for the Lakers.
It’s unclear what injury the Lakers believe ended Deng’s career, but it’s worth noting that Deng suffered a pectoral injury he underwent surgery for during his time in Los Angeles. Deng appeared in 57 total games for the Lakers, including just one game during the 2017-18 season.
Expect an update on the Lakers’ request before the start of free agency.