When the Los Angeles Lakers sent JaVale McGee to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade in order to free up the salary room necessary to sign Marc Gasol to a two-year deal in free agency, most of the focus was (justifiably) on the addition of Gasol. But the Lakers also acquired two other players on Sunday, by virtue of their trade with the Cavaliers: Alfonzo McKinnie and Jordan Bell.
It sounds like only one of them will be a Laker for very long, though. ESPN’s cadre of NBA Insiders broke down the trade in their report on the two transactions, and while they said McKinnie will start training camp on the roster, Bell will be cut (emphasis mine):
Both McKinnie ($1.8 million) and Bell ($1.8 million) were on non-guaranteed contracts for 2020-21, according to Marks. In order to make the money between them and McGee — who recently opted into his $4.2 million contract for next season — match under the league’s trade guidelines, L.A. will have to guarantee part of their contracts.
The Lakers will guarantee $580,000 of Bell’s salary, waive him and use the stretch provision to space the money owed to him over the next three years, league sources told Marks.
McKinnie’s contract has been fully guaranteed and he will begin the season on the Lakers’ roster, according to Marks.
Adding Gasol and McKinnie, while parting with McGee, will give L.A. 10 players under contract, and when Anthony Davis signs his extension to stay with the team, as expected, that will bring the roster to 11. That will leave the Lakers with only enough cap space to sign three more players to one-year, veteran’s minimum contracts for 2020-21.
McKinnie sticking around actually makes some sense. He has a reputation as a strong defender, and our friends that cover the Cavaliers over at Fear The Sword called him “one of the few bright spots” of an otherwise forgettable season for LeBron James’ former team:
McKinnie does have some ammunition to make a case that he sticks with the Cavs next season. As mentioned before, McKinnie was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dire season for Cleveland. So much so that McKinnie even shared the Cavs viewed him as the team’s best perimeter defender. Now, that could be more of an indictment on Cleveland’s status as a rebuilding squad but at times McKinnie had to spend the night defending the LeBron James’s and Kawhi Leonard’s of the world - and was able to hold his own.
The Cavs’ roster next season is largely the same as last season and that means McKinnie is still one of, if not the, better perimeter defenders on the roster. Players like that come at a premium in today’s NBA and for the Cavs to only pay McKinnie $1.8 million for his efforts next year would be a steal.
The Lakers made up for the departure of Danny Green a bit with the Wesley Matthews signing, but if McKinnie can give them much of anything, that would be a huge bonus to get in a trade they were doing strictly to dump salary. Bell could have given them another playable center, but they can likely do better on the free agency scrap heap anyway as they continue to fill out the roster.
For today, McKinnie won’t get many headlines outside of this one, but if he can fill any roll in the rotation, this will be even more of a home-run trade than it already appears to be. Like Shannon Brown with the 2009 Lakers, maybe he’ll start as a throw-in that amounts to something more. Or maybe he won’t. Either way, he allowed the Lakers to get the center they really wanted, which is all that truly matters.