While clearing Luol Deng‘s salary from their books would be the most effective way of clearing cap room to sign two maximum-salary free agents in 2018, the Lakers don’t intend to sacrifice any future first-round picks to facilitate a Deng deal, source tell Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link).
As Marks notes, this past offseason, the Lakers were able to move one of the two ill-advised contracts they signed in the summer of 2016, sending Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn. However, that deal cost the team a former second overall pick in D’Angelo Russell.
Deng’s four-year, $72MM deal was the Lakers’ other misstep from 2016’s free agent period, with that massive contract quickly turning into a negative asset. Moving it in a trade similar to the Mozgov swap would likely mean attaching at least one future first-round pick, if not more. For a rebuilding team, parting with so many first-rounders would be “reckless,” Marks writes.
Assuming the Lakers’ stance on Deng doesn’t change, working out a buyout and/or waiving him via the stretch provision look like the most viable paths to creating cap room. I examined the stretch provision in detail on Thursday, using Knicks center Joakim Noah as a case study, but Deng – whose contract is very similar to Noah’s – is another top candidate to be stretched.
Deng is owed $18MM in 2018/19 and $18.81MM in 2019/20. If the Lakers stretch him anytime before August 31, 2018, his salaries for those two seasons would be spread across five years at a rate of $7.362MM annually. If L.A. decides to roll its cap room over to 2019, the team could keep Deng for one more season, then waive him later and spread the final year of his deal across three seasons at a rate of $6.27MM per year.
There’s also a scenario in which the Lakers could extend and stretch Deng, potentially further reducing his annual cap hits by stretching them across more seasons. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report broke down that idea last month, though it’s not clear if the franchise is considering it.