After serving as one of the Lakers' most important locker room voices over the last two seasons, Jared Dudley departed both the team and the court itself earlier this week, turning in his uniform for a suit to join Jason Kidd’s staff in Dallas.
That wasn’t an entire surprise as the Lakers had forecast that they would likely be moving on from Dudley when it comes to roster construction. However, that move came despite some rather important figures pushing for Dudley to return.
According to Bill Plaschke of the LA Times, who spoke with Dudley after his move, both LeBron James and Anthony Davis wanted the Lakers to retain Dudley.
“Obviously LeBron and A.D. wanted me back,” said Dudley. “But we just couldn’t convince them.”
A number of reasons likely played into the Lakers not retaining Dudley. For one, the team wanted to keep an open roster spot heading into the season, which allows them more flexibility either via trade or to sign players bought out mid-season.
Financially, Dudley would have been on a veteran minimum contract but would have cost the team quite a bit more in luxury tax. With his minimum deal being north of $2.5 million, signing him would have cost the Lakers closer to $8 million over the whole season.
Lakers will have a $200M combined payroll and luxury tax after they presumably sign two players to the veteran minimum.— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) August 18, 2021
Signing Jared Dudley as the 15th man would cost an additional $8M.
Signing him on the last day of the regular season for their playoff run would cost $31k. https://t.co/E14ubMhZY7
Unfortunately, the luxury tax has played a notable role in the Lakers offseason decision-making, leading to them ultimately not retaining Alex Caruso earlier in free agency.
Adding more to the frustration, then, is that Dudley would have played on a non-guaranteed deal this season.
After being rebuffed in his best efforts to return for a third season — he would have played for a non-guaranteed contract — Dudley suddenly announced this week that he is retiring to accept a job as one of the top assistants for Jason Kidd’s Dallas Mavericks.
A non-guaranteed deal would have cut down on the luxury tax bill and allowed the Lakers the flexibility to release Dudley up to Jan. 10, 2022 and maintain an open roster spot.
There is an argument that Dudley’s voice would have carried less weight in the locker room this season with the Lakers’ roster full of veteran players. Dudley’s voice still mattered to Davis and James but would it have carried that same weight across a locker room of players with more experience in the league?
Ultimately, the Lakers did not feel having his voice in the locker room and on the bench was worth the $8 million of a guaranteed roster spot or significantly less money on a non-guaranteed deal. How the Lakers fill out that roster and whether the team feels any off-court impact of not having Dudley’s presence will determine whether this was a risk worth taking.