Despite the acquisition of LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers still look determined to continue adding superstars on their roster. The Lakers may have passed on trading for Kawhi Leonard, but they are expected to be big players once again in the 2019 NBA free agency. As most people think, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka purposely filled their roster with one-year contracts to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019.
The Lakers recently succeeded in opening a huge chunk of their salary cap space by reaching a buyout agreement with veteran small forward Luol Deng. As a farewell gift to the team that surprisingly signed him to a lucrative deal in 2016, Deng decided to give the Lakers a $7.5 million discount, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This will allow the Lakers to clear $38 million in salary cap space for the next offseason.
According to Tom Ziller of SB Nation, if Luol Deng didn’t take a discount, the Lakers would only have $35.8 million in salary cap space for the 2019 NBA free agency. The said amount is only enough to give a max contract to superstars who have less than 10 years of service, including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kemba Walker.
Kevin Durant’s 2019-20 starting max salary: $38.2 million— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 2, 2018
The Lakers' projected 2019-20 cap space - thanks to the Luol Deng buyout: $38.2 millionhttps://t.co/sPPxN7oUb8
However, after Luol Deng left $7.5 million on the table, the Lakers are now in a strong position to chase NBA superstars who have 10 or more years of service like Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors. Durant has been in the NBA for 11 years. His starting maximum salary when he hits the free agency market next summer is $38.2 million.
“Remember, Durant’s 2019-20 starting max salary is $38.2 million. The timing of the stretch provision down to the day, plus the buyout discount Deng agreed to down to the dollar, give the Lakers projected 2019-20 cap space of… $38.2 million. Is Durant remotely interested in joining LeBron on the Lakers? No one knows. But on the chance that he is, the Lakers are ready to give him every dollar he deserves… just like they were prepared to do for LeBron this summer. Preparation is the mother of success.”
Kevin Durant is expected to exercise his 2019 player option to test the free agency market once again, and there are speculations that he could leave the Warriors even if they succeed in winning another NBA championship title. His potential departure from Golden State to join LeBron James in Los Angeles will dramatically change the NBA landscape. The Warriors will still remain a strong title contender, but losing Durant will undeniably make them vulnerable.
Meanwhile, would his tandem, LeBron, make the Lakers a team to fear once again in the Western Conference? Having two of the best active players in the league will increase the Lakers’ chance of adding another NBA championship banner at Staples Center.