- The Los Angeles Lakers’ trade for Anthony Davis cost them $US9 million in cap space because of some complex salary and timing rules.
- According to reports, the Lakers may not have realised the salary-cap ramifications of the deal.
- The Lakers are now reportedly “scrambling” to tweak the deal to open up enough cap space to sign a top free agent this offseason.
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The Los Angeles Lakers landed one big star this offseason in trading for Anthony Davis, but the trade itself may have cost them another.
If the Davis trade goes through as presently constructed, it will leave the Lakers with $US23.7 million in cap space, short of the $US32 million needed to sign a star player to a max contract this offseason.
The Lakers would be absorbing Davis into their cap space. Since they are below the salary cap, they don’t need to match salaries with the New Orleans Pelicans to take on Davis, who also has a $US4 million trade kicker (a bonus, essentially) that he is reportedly unlikely to waive.
Reports after the deal indicated that if the Lakers waited until July 30 to complete the deal, they could potentially sign a max star. In this scenario, they would keep their current roster, sign a max star with cap space in the summer, then make the trade with Davis. The Lakers would then be over the salary cap, so they would need to match salaries with the Pelicans. The Lakers would trade whoever they drafted with the fourth overall pick in the deal to match salaries. To complicate matters further, first-round picks cannot be traded until 30 days after signing their contracts.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are now “scrambling to reshape the parameters” of the Davis trade to open up max cap space. That could mean adding players such as Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga to the deal to create more salary-cap room.
The situation has presented a question: Were the Lakers aware of the salary-cap ramifications before they agreed to the Davis deal?
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said on “The Jump” that the Lakers should have been aware of the cap ramifications, and the situation was described to her as the Lakers realising their new quandary after the trade.
“The way this trade was constructed, this should have been first and foremost on their minds as they were talking to the Pelicans in a way where they set themselves up,” Shelburne said. “If this was really their plan – that they want to have a third star – this should have been central to the conversations with the Pelicans and my understanding is that it was not. They went all the way down the road, and it’s been described to me as a, ‘The Lakers called back,’ after everything had been discussed about this – the timing.
“To me, if this was important to you, this should have been something you were arguing for in the deal construction, to begin with.”
Shelburne said the Lakers have lost their leverage and now may need to incentivise teams to take on their extra players to clear cap space.
The Lakers seemingly put no thought into the timing of the deal’s execution, potentially costing themselves around $US9 million in salary-cap room … But a seasoned front office would have accounted for all of these factors before agreeing to the deal and losing leverage. A better executive would have had Davis waive his kicker (as the price of getting to L.A. immediately) and persuaded Griffin to push the trade to Aug. 1 (as the price of all those draft picks).
A general manager told Beck that the Lakers “screwed up” the timing.
It’s also possible that the Lakers were aware of the cap ramifications and simply wanted to get the deal done. Though suitors for Davis were reportedly dropping out – with neither the New York Knicks nor Boston Celtics offering their best assets in the same package – the Lakers may not have wanted to test the Pelicans.
With $US23 million in cap space, the Lakers could pursue two or three role players to fill out their roster. However, adding a third star could make them instant contenders and protect them against injury. Filling out the rest of the roster would be difficult, however.
The Lakers are on the clock to find a path to max cap space. The offseason can already be counted as a win, with Davis now in tow, plus cap space to add more players. However, championships can be decided on the fringes. The $US9 million difference in cap space may be a smaller detail that has a bigger effect on the coming Lakers seasons.
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