Days before the training camp starts, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to part ways with veteran small forward Luol Deng. The Lakers are set to pay Deng’s full salary for the 2018-19 NBA season and will stretch the final year of his four-year, $72 million contract over the next three years. Successfully getting rid of Deng’s contract enables the Lakers to have enough salary cap space to sign a maximum free agent next summer.
The 2019 NBA free agency will be loaded with several NBA superstars like Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, and DeMarcus Cousins. Pairing one of those superstars with LeBron James will strengthen the Lakers’ chance of winning an NBA championship title. Aside from creating salary cap space for the next offseason, the Lakers also have an empty roster spot that they could use to sign another player.
However, the Lakers don’t seem to be in a hurry to use the empty roster spot. Per Lakers Nation, Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka revealed why they are not in a rush to fill the vacancy.
“I think flexibility is really important. We’re deep already going into camp. What a roster spot does, just to kind of educate the audience, is it helps in a trade. So if you want to trade one player out and bring two back at the same salary, that gives you flexibility in the trade market. And then it also helps you if there’s an injury and a certain position goes down, you need to fill the need. So it does give us flexibility. I think as of now, Magic’s lean is to keep it open, stay flexible, because we’re so deep.”
The Lakers could actually use the empty roster spot to address their weakness at the center position. The Lakers will be heading into the training camp with three centers – JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac, and Moritz Wagner. Unfortunately, none of those big men are ready for the starting role.
McGee spent most of his NBA career coming off the bench, while Zubac and Wagner obviously need more experience to be included in the starting lineup. However, there are no longer interesting options in the free agency market, and as of now, the Lakers must be hoping that one of McGee, Zubac, or Wagner will step up next season. After passing on the opportunity to sign DeMarcus Cousins and Brook Lopez, there are speculations that the Lakers plan to use LeBron James as their center and execute their own version of the Golden State Warriors’ “Death Lineup.”