Virtually every one of the Lakers’ 2017 offseason moves was made with an eye toward 2018. Timofey Mozgov was dealt in order to create future cap flexibility, and L.A. only committed a single year to a promising young free agent like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in order to preserve space for 2018, when the club plans to pursue a max free agent or two.
In his latest piece for Bleacher Report, Eric Pincus takes a deep dive into the math behind the Lakers’ summer of 2018, exploring whether it would be possible to create room for two maximum salaries. While the Lakers don’t currently project to have that sort of space, the club is confident it could trade Jordan Clarkson if necessary in order to clear more salary from its books, a source within the organization tells Pincus.
Of course, as the Mozgov deal proved, any contract is movable in the right deal, but Pincus’ report suggests the Lakers believe they wouldn’t necessarily have to attach another asset of value to Clarkson in order to deal him, like they did with Mozgov. The 25-year-old guard, who averaged 14.7 PPG and 2.6 APG off the bench for L.A. last season, is under contract for three more years at a rate of $12.5MM annually.
Even if the Lakers move Clarkson without taking any salary back, the team would only be up near about $60MM in projected 2018 room, not quite enough for two max players, according to Pincus, who suggests trading or waiving Luol Deng‘s sizable contract would likely be necessary as well.
The summer of 2018 is still a long way off, and it remains to be seen if the Lakers will be able to lure one or two top free agents out west, but the ’18 class currently projects to be a star-studded one — LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George are among the players currently on expiring contracts who have been linked to Los Angeles at some point during their respective careers.
For now, this all merely amounts to speculation. Clarkson’s 2017/18 performance will affect his trade value, and the free agent landscape could look much different for the Lakers by next July than it does now. Still, it’s worth noting that new president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka are putting plenty of thought into what the team’s roster will look like a year from now.