Last month, the Los Angeles Lakers requested a career-ending injury application for Luol Deng. If the NBA approved their application, the $10 million Deng is owed over the next two seasons wouldn’t have counted against their salary books, and they would have had more financial flexibility for both this season and next season.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, that application was denied. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA’s “Fitness-To-Play” panel deemed that Deng didn’t suffer a career-ending injury during his time in Los Angeles:
The NBA’s verdict makes sense when you consider the fact that Deng played 22 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves after he was waived by the Lakers, but the Lakers tried their luck because Deng still met the minimum requirements for the application in spite of that. They had nothing to lose and $10 million to gain.
The Lakers still have enough money under the hard cap to fill out their roster with veteran’s minimum contracts, but that salary relief would have made it more feasible for them to acquire talent in the post-trade deadline buyout market. It also would have made them bigger players in 2021, when the market for free agents is expected to be richer than it was this offseason.
All in all, though, the Lakers aren’t in any worse shape than they were an hour ago. They still have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, and they’ll have the ability to pay the players they want to keep around after this season in spite of Deng’s $5 million dead salary. The extra wiggle room would have been nice, but it won’t the difference between them winning a championship and not this season.