The new CBA will restrict the ways the Lakers can add talent. As a luxury tax paying team, the Lakers would have a lower mid-level exception to use on free agents (this mini-MLE would allow contracts worth 3million/year for up to 4 years), would not have the use of the bi-annual exception (which, if you don’t recall, is what the Lakers used to sign Shannon Brown after he was acquired via trade), and would have limitations on the use of sign and trades starting in year 3 of the new deal. Plus, as we already discussed, don’t expect the Lakers to fill their holes via picking up amnestied players on the cheap. All in all, the new CBA is not high payroll team friendly and that will affect how the Lakers do business.
However, there’s one asset the Lakers still do have at their disposal and it’s a carry over from the last CBA. As Larry Coon tweeted:
Timely trade exception: the league resumes business on 12/9. The Lakers’ $5.5M trade exception for Sasha Vujacic expires 12/15.
As it turns out, a cost-cutting move last season – trading Sasha to the Nets for Joe Smith – may end up being a way for the Lakers to add a nice contract to their payroll this season. This is a nice card to have up their sleeve should a mid-level contract come on the market that a team is willing to dump for some additional cap room to chase a FA or to place a bid on an amnestied player on the secondary waiver market.
There are still some issues to work out, however. As Coon points out, the original deadline for the Lakers to use the exception is only 6 days after the NBA plans to open for business. And while the league is opening their practice facilities to players tomorrow and have allowed preliminary contact between players and agents to start today, that 12/15 deadline doesn’t leave much time for the Lakers to make inroads on acquiring a player. Especially when every front office will be scrambling mad trying to fill roster spots of their own by courting free agents and working the phones to acquire players (rather than sending one away for, essentially, nothing but more cap space).
That said, reports have been trickling in that the league may extend the deadlines for teams to use these exceptions since the league was not open for business for what will end up being a shade over 5 months. After all, what would the league tell a team like the Cavs who have a large exception that would have expired in July? Here’s hoping the league makes a ruling on this soon so teams know where they stand and can look into how they can use their assets.
And, make no mistake, this is an asset for the Lakers. As mentioned earlier, their only means of adding players this off-season will be the mini-mid level exception, the veteran minimum, or executing a trade that upsets the core of their roster. However, this exception changes that by giving them an additional 5.5 million to work with in a trade for one or more players. Sure, there are restrictions – the exception can’t be combined with other assets to form a bigger trade, but the exception can be split into pieces to trade for multiple players.
Whether the Lakers decide to use this exception remains to be seen. But in an off-season where their options would be limited, it’s good to know that they have one more card up their sleeve to try and add to their talent base and fill holes on their roster.