It is public knowledge that the Los Angeles Lakers are aiming to sign two marquee players this summer. For that to happen, the team may have to let go some of their soon-to-be free agents to create more salary cap space, and Isaiah Thomas is rumored to be one of those who is on the table.
LA Sports Hub suggested that the Lakers do not have to let Thomas walk away in free agency without getting some value in return. According to the report, a sign-and-trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson has an additional benefit as it could also make them lose Luol Deng’s massive contract to eventually create even more cap space in the future.
Thomas is entering unrestricted free agency after his four-year, $27 million contract signed with the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2014 expires in the offseason. Under the deal, the two-time NBA All-Star earns around $6.7 million per season and there are reports that he would be looking to make a significant pay rise in his next contract.
However, his substantial drop in form due to a nagging hip injury has drastically lowered his perceived value as a basketball player. Most analysts believe that there could be no team right now that would willingly offer him the max deal he so longed for. Thus, settling for only a medium-sized contract and proving himself for another season is said to be the next best move for Thomas, whether or not he earns it by staying with the Lakers.
Gibson will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019 while Teague’s deal expires the season after that, which means getting these two players would likely delay the Lakers’ plans for at least another year. The report noted that the team opting to go this route would only be possible if Los Angeles strikes out in their quest to sign either LeBron James or Paul George this summer.
Perhaps the most crucial part of this trade is the inclusion of Deng, whose salary takes a cap hit of $18 million per season even when he is only sitting on the bench. Teague’s salary is similar to Deng’s, but the 29-year-old point guard could evidently contribute more on the basketball court than the latter, the report said.
With Gibson’s salary out of the way in the summer of 2019, the Lakers could then focus on acquiring the available superstar free agents at that time, some of whom are Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Klay Thompson. According to reports, this is actually their contingency plan in case they miss out on James and George this summer.