- The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to a trade for Anthony Davis, but there is a timing complication that could affect their summer plans.
- If the Lakers want to sign another max free agent this summer to team up with Davis and LeBron James, they would have to wait to complete the trade until July 30, due to salary and trade rules. If they complete it earlier, they would not have the cap space to sign a max-contract star.
- The Pelicans have little incentive to wait until July 30 to make the trade, so the Lakers may have to abandon hopes of building a Big 3 or somehow convince the Pelicans to wait.
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The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans agreed to a massive trade that will send Anthony Davis to the Lakers to team up with LeBron James, according to multiple reports.
The Lakers are reportedly sending Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the fourth pick in the draft, plus several, future first-round picks to the Pelicans.
Reports after the trade signalled that the Lakers intended to pursue another star free agent this July. However, a timing complication has emerged that may throw a wrench in the Lakers’ plans to build a Big 3.
The trade between the Pelicans and Lakers has not been completed yet. If the deal goes through on July 6, when the league’s moratorium on transactions lifts, it would leave the Lakers short of the cap space needed to sign a max free agent.
Davis has a $US4 million “trade kicker” – essentially a bonus – to pick up when the deal goes through. Assuming Davis does not void the kicker, if the deal goes through on July 6, the Lakers will have $US23.7 million in cap space this offseason, short of what’s needed to sign a free agent to a max contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
For the Lakers to sign a max free agent, they would need to wait to complete the trade until July 30, due to salary and trade rules.
The Lakers could enter the offseason with $US32.5 million in cap space if they delay the completion of the trade. That would allow them to sign a free agent – Kyrie Irving, for example – to a max contract.
If the Lakers sign a free agent to a max contract this summer before completing the trade, they would then need to match salaries with the Pelicans for Davis because the Lakers would be operating as an “over-the-cap” team. The reported deal could still go through, but the Lakers would need to send the salary back of the fourth overall pick to match salaries.
The problem is, first-round picks cannot be traded until 30 days after they sign their contracts. If the fourth pick signed on July 1, he would not be trade-eligible until July 30.
If the Lakers can delay the trade until July 30, they can sign a max free agent, then absorb Davis to partner with James.
There is little incentive for the Pelicans to do this, however. According to Wojnarowski, the Pelicans currently intend to complete the deal on July 6.
According to The Los Angeles’ Times Tania Ganguli, the Pelicans intend to shop the fourth pick for a veteran player. By waiting until July 30, that becomes more difficult unless another team agrees to trade a player for whomever the Pelicans tell the Lakers to take with the fourth pick.
As Ganguli notes, whichever team gets the fourth pick will want to bring in their rookie as quickly as possible, including to play in the Las Vegas Summer League which takes place July 5-15. If the Davis trade is delayed until July 30, whichever team gets the fourth pick would not be able to play their rookie at Summer League (a minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless).
As ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote, the Lakers could attempt to persuade the Pelicans to wait until July 30 by sweetening the deal, perhaps by including second-year players Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga in the trade.
If the Lakers cannot find a way to open up max cap space, Lowe reported that the team is also exploring players to sign with their $US23 million in cap space – perhaps two players in the $US10 million salary range.
It could be beneficial for the Lakers to pursue this avenue over signing one max player. The Lakers are desperately short at every position. It might be a better use of cap space to sign several role players to surround Davis and James rather than one player.
There is a risk in that, also. As Lowe noted, James will turn 35 this year and is coming off the worst injury of his career. Davis, though just 26, has played over 70 games only twice in his career. If either or both of them were to get injured, it could leave the Lakers short-handed.
The Lakers may have no choice but to make the deal on July 6, then plot the best way forward. If they have dreams of building a Big 3, they will have to get creative and persuasive.
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