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Lakers, Cavs expand Rajon Rondo trade to include Knicks and save on luxury taxes

We now know why the Lakers and Cavaliers were taking so long on the Rajon Rondo trade, as the now-larger deal will send Denzel Valentine to the Knicks and get the Lakers some cash as they open up a roster spot.

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San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are expanding their previously reported trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers involving Rajon Rondo to a three-team deal with the New York Knicks, according to multiple reports.

Denzel Valentine, who originally was coming to Los Angeles from Cleveland, will now go to New York to help the Lakers save some cash.

The larger purpose of the trade for the Lakers is still mainly to open up a roster spot, an opening that will almost certainly be used to sign Stanley Johnson, who has impressed during his initial 10-day contract that expires on Monday.

In trading Rondo without taking any salary back, the Lakers will also drop down a tax bracket, a move that will save them a substantial amount of money, which — according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN — is part of the motivation for the deal.

The trade exception could also be a useful tool for the Lakers come the trade deadline as they potentially look to retool their roster as well, though it would only be useful in trading for other players across the league on veteran’s minimum deals.

But ultimately, by including the Knicks into the deal, the Lakers have saved a decent amount of money in luxury tax payments, opened up a roster spot all the same and cleared the way to sign Johnson. And because Johnson’s minimum contract would be almost half as much as Rondo’s at this point in the season (in part due to his fewer years of experience), the Lakers will ultimately save roughly $3 million in total with the luxury tax payments with this move.

The Lakers and the luxury tax has been a sensitive subject this season, especially when that was effectively the reason the team didn’t keep Alex Caruso this offseason. But while it has limited their moves and counting the savings of millionaire owners is a silly task, it’s still notable that Pelinka has maneuvered quite impressively to save the Lakers money in this deal.

Most importantly, though, they’re almost certainly replacing a player in Rondo — who was not part of the active rotation — with a player in Johnson who has become an important piece to the Lakers in the 10 days he has been with the team. So, money-saving or no, the team is still upgrading with this move, which is something fans can get excited about, and credit to Pelinka for finding a way to do both at once.

It also speaks to the impact that Johnson has made in such a short time that the team parted ways with a player in Rondo, a trusted veteran and voice in the locker room, to almost certainly sign him the rest of the season.

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