Paul George and the Lakers Salary Cap Future

Reed —  March 1, 2017

With Magic and Rob Pelinka taking over the front office, fans are understandably excited about where they can take the Lakers over the next few years. One huge component of this future will be whether the Lakers can (finally) lure first rate talent to join the young core, particularly given Magic’s potential gravitas as a recruiter, and Pelinka’s deep connections throughout the league. The news that Paul George is “hell bent” on coming to the Lakers during the 2018 offseason has only fueled this hope.

As a consequence, the Lakers’ immediate and future cap situation under the new CBA becomes critical. If the Lakers are going to sign George or acquire other leading players they will need to have the cap flexibility to make it happen, even in the face of the Mozgov/Deng disastrous deals and the pricey extensions coming to the young core.

Just how much flexibility will Magic and Pelinka have to work with the next few years? Is George a realistic target in 2018? And what can they do to clear out more room? I attempt to work through those questions below, and highlight potential issues and options for building the team under the new CBA. At the outset, I will set out my high level findings, and then work through them in more detail below.

  • The Lakers only have a two-year window to add significant free agents, and then the young core’s extensions will eliminate our cap flexibility.
  • The Lakers can easily create room for a max free agent during the 2017 offseason, or room for a max free agent (Paul George…) during the 2018 offseason, but will need to take a few aggressive moves to accomplish both.
  • It is important that the team delays Randle’s extension until the 2018 offseason to protect as much cap room as possible.
  • The team will need to waive + stretch Mozgov and likely move Clarkson to create enough cap room to sign impact free agents in 2017 and have a shot at George or others (Westbrook/Cousins/etc) in 2018.
  • There are reasonable paths to building a contending roster around the young core, particularly if we keep the 2017 lottery pick, and can lure a young-ish impact free agent during the two-year window. But to make this happen, Magic and Pelinka cannot repeat the mistakes of the past and tie up cap room with underperforming players.

THE PRESENT PICTURE AND RELEVANT RULES

As a starting point, the Lakers three-year salary picture is shown below:

Player17-18 Salary18-19 Salary19-20 Salary
Deng$17.19$18.00$18.81
Mozgov$15.28$16.00$16.72
Clarkson$11.56$12.50$13.44
Brewer$7.58
Russell$5.56$7.02$17.55

(min hold)

Ingram$5.52$5.76$7.27
Randle$4.15$10.38

(min hold)

$20.00

(extension)

Nance$1.26$2.72$5.68

(min hold)

Zubac$1.08$1.13$2.15

(min hold)

17 First (#3)$4.70$5.58$6.53
17 First (HOU/#28)$1.18$1.40$1.64
19 First (#15)$2.74
Hold/2nd Rounder$0.82$0.82$0.82
Hold/2nd Rounder$0.82
Salary Cap$102.00$103.00$109.00
Committed Salary$75.88$81.68$111.43
Cap Space$26.12$21.32-$2.43

The salary cap for each year is based on the most recent estimates from the league, but this is subject to change. I’ll work through a few relevant salary/cap issues and rules, which we need to keep in mind as we consider our options going forward.

Two-Year Free Agent Window

First, and this is very important, the Lakers essentially have a two-year window to sign significant free agents. This is for two reasons: (1) the Mozgov and Deng signings are taking up $30M+ in cap room each year, and (2) other than Ingram, the young core’s cheap rookie deals will all expire by the 2019 offseason. Thus, we see that for the 2019-20 season the Lakers have $111M in salary committed against a $109M cap, and this assumes signing no free agents over a minimum salary the two prior summers. I do not see a reasonable path to securing significant cap room in the 2020 offseason, and it is therefore critical that the team finds ways to acquire talent over the next two summers. This factor was likely at the front of Jeanie’s mind when she expedited the transition from Mitch and Jim to Magic and Pelinka (who we all anticipate will shine as recruiters).

Draft Pick Issues

I assume here that the Lakers will keep their top 3 pick, mostly because the other scenario makes me want to break things. If the 2017 lottery pick is retained then the Lakers also keep their 2019 first round pick, and convey their 2017 and 2018 second round picks to Orlando pursuant to the Dwight deal. If the 2017 pick is lost, then the team also loses their 2019 first rounder, but keep the 2018 first round pick, and 2017 and 2018 second rounders.

Which of these scenarios unfolds will impact the team’s cap room each year by a few million dollars (e.g. not having our 2017 lottery pick saves about 5 million this summer, and likely a few million in 2018 given the probability the pick will be later in the draft than top 3, and the salary thus lower).

Note that I also do not list second rounders obtained from Chicago for the Calderon deal, but their cap holds are taken into account as necessary.

Roster Holds

I have factored in cap holds when calculating potential cap room. The CBA requires that the team allocate salary to at least 12 roster spots, so I have added a minimum roster hold when necessary to satisfy the rule. The new CBA states that we use the Year 0 Minimum Annual Salary for these holds, which is set at $816k.

Rookie Extensions

As the young guys come off their rookie contracts and become eligible for extensions, we have to consider the best way to preserve room under the cap. This process is a bit complicated and the team will need to navigate carefully to both keep their young core, while at the same time avoid unnecessarily eating up cap room.

The team has three basic options with their first round picks as they finish their rookie deals and come up on eligible extensions: (1) negotiate an early extension, (2) let them become restricted free agents and negotiate an extension when their rookie deal expires, and (3) make a qualifying offer and let them become unrestricted free agents following their 5th season. Each path carries different cap consequences. I won’t consider the third option here because I don’t believe it is a likely path for any of the team’s relevant players.

Randle will be the first of the core to reach this stage, and I’ll use him as an example to illustrate the team’s options and correlating cap issues. Randle’s four-year rookie deal expires after next season, and he will be eligible for an extension that would begin the 2018-2019 season. Under the CBA, first round picks are eligible to sign an extension during a specific window – from July 1 until the day before the 2017-2018 season begins (basically, during the offseason after the player’s third season).

The first option is to negotiate an early extension during the permissible negotiating window, and this is the path most teams take with high performing rookies that they want to keep around long term. Typically the rookie takes a bit less than full market value for the security of locking in the long term money (unless they are a sure max player and not open to any discount). For example, Victor Oladipo signed an early extension for 4 years and $84M over the summer, when he probably could have bargained for more if he had gone to market. For Randle, I could see him and the team agreeing to something similar (paying less than a max but giving him early security). The downside is that Randle’s new salary (likely over $20M per year) would count against the cap in full for the 2018 offseason, when the team may be anxious to add free agents.

Another option would be to wait to negotiate Randle’s extension until after his fourth season, which would make him a restricted free agent during the summer of 2018. The risks of this option are that other teams could potentially make Randle a large offer to try and scare LA away from matching, and that Randle could become disgruntled during his fourth season due to not having an extension in place. But this option also carries two significant benefits, and I hope the Lakers go down this path.

First, the team gets another year to evaluate Randle’s play and is able to determine his market value at the time the extension will actually begin. Second, and perhaps most critically, Randle’s cap hold would be much smaller, allowing the team more cap room to sign other free agents (cough, Paul George).

Under the CBA, a first round pick whose four year deal is expiring, and who makes less than the league average salary (as is the case with Randle), has a cap hold of 250% his prior salary, which would amount to approximately $10.4M, far below the extension salary Randle will command. Thus, the Lakers could assure Randle they will take care of him during the 2018 summer, go lock in other free agents with their cap room, and then go over the cap to extend Randle all the way up to his max salary (25% of the cap, so over $25M).

This is the path the Spurs took after Kawhi’s fourth season, using his lower hold number, signing Aldridge with the extra cap room, and then going over the cap to give Kawhi the full max. The Lakers cap situation is likely to be tight the summer of 2018, with George and other free agents as targets, so saving that $10M or so in cap room could be enormous. And there is no real risk that Randle would bolt as the team would have the right to match any other team’s offer given his restricted status.

In the salary chart above I assumed the Lakers wait with Randle, and slotted in a $10.4M salary for the 2018 offseason, and then assumed a $20M extension salary, which would count in full towards the cap the following year. I also used the smaller cap holds for Russell and Nance during the 2019 offseason, but at that point it likely won’t matter as the Lakers are probably going to be over the cap regardless of what they do with those extensions. (Note that Zubac as a second round pick carries a cap hold of 190% of his prior salary, not 250%). The critical decision will be to hold off on Randle’s extension until the 2018 offseason to preserve as much cap room as possible for free agents that summer.

THE FUTURE: PURSUING PAUL GEORGE AND OTHER BLESSINGS

Things get interesting as we start forecasting what the Lakers might do with their cap room the next two summers, with the team potentially pursuing free agents like Gordon Hayward this summer and Paul George in 2018. But with these stars commanding over $30M in starting salary under the new CBA, can the Lakers fit one or potentially multiple high level free agents into their cap over the next few years? And on this front, the massive investments in Mozgov and Deng at the outset of last summer’s spending frenzy loom large. The good news is that there are still reasonably possible paths to adding superstar talent under the cap, but it may take some creativity.

As it stands now, the Lakers will begin the 2017 summer with around $26M in cap room, give or take a few million depending on what happens with the lottery pick. Hayward, for reference, can command 30% of the cap as a player with 7+ years of experience, which would result in a $30.6M starting salary. Other top 2017 FAs include Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari, Serge Ibaka, George Hill, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, etc. While most will likely stay with their teams, Magic will assuredly be anxious to make a splash.

The Lakers should be able to fairly easily maneuver for cap room necessary to sign a max free agent through using desirable assets to move contracts. For example, the Lakers could attach a second or two with Brewer’s contract and create another $7M. Or, more aggressively, they could attach their Houston first rounder to Clarkson to try and both clear space and acquire a cheaper player or future pick they like, which would remove over $13M. The Lakers have several attractive assets that could be packaged with a contract they want to unload – Zubac, Nance, the Houston pick, etc. And Clarkson is a $12M contract that should be moveable on its own to a team wanting to bring him into cap space. Thus, the bottom line is that the Lakers will have the ability to bring on a max player this offseason if desired.

A second question beyond feasibility, is whether bringing in a significant 2017 free agent blocks their ability to bring in Paul George or other free agents the next summer. And the answer is yes, unless more aggressive cap moves are made. To illustrate, I have set forth a revised two-year salary chart below that assumes the team signs KCP to a max contract this summer. I understand he’s a restricted free agent, so this not really likely, but the point is to consider the long term impact of adding a max level player to a multiyear contract. This also assumes the aforementioned delay for Randle’s extension until the 2018 offseason to save as much cap room as possible.

Player17-18 Salary18-19 Salary
Deng$17.19$18.00
Mozgov$15.28$16.00
Clarkson$11.56$12.50
Brewer$7.58
Russell$5.56$7.02
Ingram$5.52$5.76
Randle$4.15$10.38

(min hold)

Nance$1.26$2.72
Zubac$1.08$1.13
17 First (#3)$4.70$5.58
17 First (HOU/#28)$1.18$1.40
17 FA (KCP)$25.5$26.78
George/18 FA$30.90
Salary Cap$102.00$103.00
Committed Salary$100.56$137.71
Cap Space$1.44-$34.71

As you can see, the Lakers can just sneak in KCP’s full max contract during the 2017 offseason. If we were adding a 7+ year player (like Hayward), the team would need to clear out another $3-4M in room. The real problem is that the 2018 cap suddenly becomes too crowded, as adding George on top of the 2017 max free agent puts the Lakers $34M over the cap.

How then can Paul George be added? I think we have three main options:

  • Keep the powder dry, don’t sign 2017 free agents to multiyear deals, protect the 2018 cap room, and focus instead on letting the young core develop for another year.
  • Clear out significant cap room by using the stretch provision on Mozgov and moving Clarkson and/or Deng.
  • Trade for George and send salary out in the process.

These options will be discussed in turn. Note that the paths are not mutually exclusive. The team could, and likely will, combine elements from the approaches as things unfold.

Option 1: Avoid Long Term 2017 Contracts

While I doubt that fans (or Magic) are keen on the first option, I think it warrants serious consideration if an impact free agent can’t be lured on the team’s current timeline. And, as we’ve seen the last few years, that is always the most the most likely outcome. Instead of spending 2017 cap room on second tier talent, the Lakers could instead look for opportunities to use the cap room to acquire smaller assets around the edges, along the lines of the deal to take on Jeremy Lin’s one-year salary and pick up the first round pick that became Nance. This path would preserve flexibility and allow the team to potentially replenish its draft pick and/or young prospect cupboard, which is sorely needed. Then the team could make a relatively small cap-cutting move or two before the 2018 offseason to clear out enough room for George.

Option 2: Create Additional Room Through Cap Clearing Moves

No matter what happens with 2017 star free agents and Paul George, I expect Magic and Pelinka to be aggressive in clearing out bad contracts to create more cap flexibility.

Step one in this process is almost assuredly to use the stretch provision on Mozgov, and the sooner the better. The stretch provision lets teams waive a player and stretch his contract over 2x the remaining contract years plus one. So, if the team decided to stretch Mozgov this summer, when he has 3 years and $48M left on his deal, they could stretch that money over 7 years, or $6.86M per year. This would generate over $10M in savings during the 2017-2019 offseasons, at the expense of adding cap money during 2020-2023.

The stretch provision in the new CBA is fairly complicated, but as I understand it the team would not be able to stretch both Deng and Mozgov. The basic restriction is that (1) for any year that salary will be stretched, (2) the total stretched salary, (3) cannot exceed more than 15% of the salary cap for the year the players were waived. This should definitely restrict the team’s ability to stretch both Mozgov and Deng, and it might make it a close call to stretch Mozgov, depending on the year they choose to waive him. But we will assume for now that this option is available.

Step two in any cap clearing plan would be to move Clarkson. I believe that Clarkson has value under his contract, and another team would likely agree to take him into a trade exception or cap room. I also still believe in Clarkson as a long term piece, but if the team is going to become a serious player for 2017 free agents plus George, then Clarkson is likely a necessary sacrifice. It just becomes too difficult to create the room with his $12M+ on the books.

Even after stretching Mozgov and moving Clarkson, the team still would be about $13M short for George’s max salary if it uses its full 2017 cap room. One possibility is to plan ahead and not use the full 2017 cap room, which makes sense if the top players pass. But if we have a chance to add a max free agent this summer plus George, we will likely need to take a more painful step three, and either use a valuable asset to move Deng or consider moving Randle.

I don’t know what the cost would be to move Deng’s contract, but given his rapid decline this year and the length plus amount of his deal, the cost would surely be high – probably one or two of the 2017 Houston pick, Nance, Zubac (gulp), or the 2018 first rounder (if the 2017 lottery pick is lost). If we know that the team can obtain an elite free agent who fits in 2017 and have a real shot at George, then it would be a no-brainer to move Deng at that cost. But the team would need to be sure before sacrificing one of these important assets.

I will assume here that we execute this full plan as follows: (1) sign KCP or a similar 2017 max free agent, (2) stretch Mozgov during the 2017 offseason, (3) move Clarkson before the 2018 offseason, and (4) move Deng plus Nance and the 2017 Houston pick at the February 2018 trade deadline. The resulting the cap situation follows:

Player17-18 Salary18-19 Salary
Deng$17.19
Mozgov$6.86$6.86
Clarkson$11.56
Brewer$7.58
Russell$5.56$7.02
Ingram$5.52$5.76
Randle$4.15$10.38

(min hold)

Nance$1.26
Zubac$1.08$1.13
17 First (#3)$4.70$5.58
17 First (HOU/#28)$1.18
17 FA (KCP)$25.5$26.78
George$30.90
Salary Cap$102.00$103.00
Committed Salary$92.14$94.41
Cap Space$9.86$8.60

The math works nicely, and the team has just under $10M left over each summer to add another solid rotation player. This, to me, is the dream scenario, with the team protecting its top 3 pick, keeping the young core together, and adding two major free agents the next two summers. The team would be saturated with dynamic young talent:

Lead Guards: Russell/Ball

Wings: KCP/George/Ingram

Bigs: Randle/Zubac

This is the Lakers path to contending for a championship in this window. Keeping Ingram/Russell/Zubac, landing someone like Lonzo or Josh Jackson, using the LA recruiting advantage to bring in an impact player this summer, and George as the final superstar piece in 2018.

Another clear benefit of gathering so many assets is that it opens up endless trade possibilities. The team could package the 2017 lottery pick with other pieces (Randle/Zubac) and go after whatever stars become disgruntled with their current situations. The team could move Russell and/or Ingram for more ready-to-contend pieces if the sense is that George plus other free agent additions are ready to go for it. The Lakers would become a desired free agent destination, and have the flexibility to create cap room to land them, through using desirable assets to move contracts. The options are endless and fun to imagine. Let’s go Magic…

But, of course, this is a dream scenario, and you need a perfect storm of good luck for dreams to come true… The team may lose the 2017 pick, 2017 free agents may pass (again), and George may get traded to Boston, or somewhere he decides he’d rather commit long term. In that case we are left hoping that Russell, Ingram, Randle, etc. can become good enough on their own, which is probably unlikely.

Option 3: Trade for George a Year Early

A compromise path, which carries a lower ultimate ceiling, but also less risk, would be to trade for George a year early. This option would result in the team losing a few prized assets, but also potentially make the cap situation a bit less difficult because the team would be sending out salary to Indiana.

For example, assume that Bird sees the writing on the wall after this season and decides to cash in George before he walks for nothing, and assume that Magic doesn’t want to risk waiting for the 2018 offseason (particularly with the all star game in LA earlier that year). At that point, Indiana is unlikely to get a full superstar return (no team does), but LA would still have to send out significant pieces. The key here may be whether LA keeps its 2017 lottery pick, as that would provide a third blue chip asset beyond Russell/Ingram to entice Indiana without leaving LA barren.

If LA keeps its 2017 lottery pick, then perhaps it could put a package together around that pick, Randle, Clarkson, and two seconds. LA would probably have to take on Ellis and add Brewer’s expiring deal. Note that the Lakers wouldn’t be able to also send the 2017 Houston pick or their 2019 first due to the Stepien rule. The goal would be to keep two of Ingram/Russell/the 2017 pick, and Indiana’s goal would be to grab two of the three. I ultimately don’t think Indiana has enough leverage to demand the farm, as LA can simply pull out and wait for George to become a free agent if Indiana asks for too much. I hope that Magic would see it this way too.

If LA makes that George trade this summer (George and Ellis for the 2017 lottery pick, Randle, Clarkson, 2nd round picks, Brewer and filler), stretches Mozgov, and extends George after the season, then the cap picture looks as follows.

Player17-18 Salary18-19 Salary
Deng$17.19$18.00
Mozgov$6.86$6.86
Clarkson(traded)(traded)
Brewer(traded)(traded)
Russell$5.56$7.02
Ingram$5.52$5.76
Randle(traded)(traded)
Nance$1.26$2.27
Zubac$1.08$1.13
17 First (#3)(traded)(traded)
17 First (HOU/#28)$1.18$1.40
17 FA????
George$19.30$28.95

(cap hold – 150% prior salary)

Ellis$11.23$11.69
Hold$0.82$0.82
Hold$0.82$0.82
Salary Cap$102.00$103.00
Committed Salary$70.82$84.72
Cap Space$31.18$18.28

A few interesting notes here. First, note the cap cushion that comes from sending out Clarkson and Randle in this scenario. For 2018 that saves over $22M alone. Second, the Lakers shave a few million by holding George’s Bird rights.

Third, even with keeping Deng on the books, and adding George and Ellis, the Lakers would have over $30M in cap room to add players the 2017 offseason. Having George in hand could be an attractive selling point for Magic and Pelinka. Note that if the Lakers use more than $18.28M in cap space in 2017, they will use up their 2018 space and only be able to resign George using Bird rights. If the team wanted to carve out even more room, they could try to unload Deng and/or Ellis by attaching assets, as discussed above.

While this roster falls short of the “dream” scenario, given the need to ship out the 2017 lottery pick and Randle, it would still result in an enticing core of young players, over $30M in cap room, and potentially the 2019 pick to play with:

Lead Guards: Russell/Ellis

Wings: George/Ingram/Deng

Bigs: Zubac/Nance

If you added a nice 2017 free agent or two with that group (KCP, Blake, Hill, Gallo, etc.), the team could suddenly be in great shape, especially when Ingram and Russell come of age. And if the team is patient and maneuvers to maximize its 2018 cap room, it could be in position to land Russell Westbrook on top of George, which would probably result in a dramatic Lakers-rapture.

If, on the other hand, the Lakers do not keep their 2017 lottery pick, then the path becomes more difficult. Under the Stepien rule, the team would not be able to deal their 2017 Houston pick or their own 2018 pick, and they would have to dip further into their young core to entice Indiana. We don’t know at this point what Indiana’s line in the sand will be, or how desperate they will be to move George, but I wonder if the path to trading for George is only feasible if the Lakers protect their upcoming lottery pick. Otherwise, there just may not be enough collective assets to justify the deal.

Option 4: Happiness Without Paul

The Lakers future does not, of course, turn on whether they can land Paul George. He has certainly gotten the lion’s share of the attention lately, but the Lakers have a deep young core and paths to obtaining significant cap room the next two summers. Even Beyond George, there are several impact players available in 2018 – Westbrook, Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine, LOU (kidding… kind of…), Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, etc.

Waiting to make a splash in 2018, whether it is George or others from that list, may ultimately make the most sense for two reasons. First, the team would not deplete its assets unnecessarily paying Indiana for someone who could come for free a year later. Second, the Lakers core players are all 19-22 (Ingram, Russell, Zubac, Randle), and may not be ready for high stakes playoff basketball for a few years. Being patient gives them more time to develop and grow, whereas short-circuiting the rebuild next summer could potentially limit their development.

FINAL THOUGHTS

However the next two years unfold, the Lakers are well-positioned to build a fascinating team. They have two potential all star prospects (Russell and Ingram), two young bigs with diverse skills and high ceilings, a coin flips chance at adding another franchise talent this summer, young rotation players on good contracts (Clarkson, Nance), and, despite the Mozgov-Deng abominations, reasonable pathways to cap flexibility. I am grateful that Jeanie made the move when she did (as messy as it was) and inserted two decision makers who appear to have real recruiting gravitas and connections. If Pelinka and his staff can navigate the new CBA to maximize the team’s cap room, then they might just Make the Lakers Great Again.

-Reed (@reed_nba)


Reed

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63 responses to Paul George and the Lakers Salary Cap Future

  1. great write-up. Just another example of when Jeannie said “should have made move sooner” that might have prevented Kupchak/Buss from handing out those ridiculous Deng/Mosgov contracts

    3+

  2. Great breakdown. I’m hesitant in trading for George since there’s a good chance he walks in the door. Don’t want a NKY-Denver fiasco and lose valuable assets that can be used to aquire other talent.

    I’m also worried that Magic will go all in on Lowry because you know, grit and bulldog!, and forget that he’s going to decline real soon and frankly he’s not that good comparatively in the West. Other contenders will still have the best player on the court if it’s Lowry and George.

    Regardless, I hope they go after younger guys like Hayward with a longer window to let the core develop.

    Ingram and Russell are the most important for the future. I would say Zubac is not far behind because it’s hard to find a quality big with his natural skillset. Randle is nice piece but I can live with shipping him out if needed. Nance can serve adequately. Same with Clarkson who is already 24 and close to what he will be.

    1+

  3. Pamela Fairbanks March 1, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Keep Clarkson! Get rid of Deng. Why are you so hell bent on getting Paul George (because he said he wants to come here). His contract is too large! Westbrook would be a disaster. They complained about Kobe holding the ball Westbrook would be no better plus he would mess up the chemistry of a young team. Your thoughts?

    4+

    • The thing is if you want to ship out Deng you are likely having to attach a player like Ingram or Russell to get the other team to absorb the contract. Clarkson is also a sizable contract that isn’t so hard to move and would likely bring back an asset.

      1+

  4. Darius: I appreciate your optimistic approach to the Lakers future.

    The flip side of your assessment is that there is a far better than zero chance that we lose the 2017/19 picks, we can’t attract free agents in 2017 and PG gets a franchise tag $200 million extension to stay in Indiana in 2018.

    Free agents want to get paid, they want to win now and if those areas are equal they want upside (a team with assets to trade or picks to use to get even better). Yes, the Lakers have assets but they are not only our young core but they are all our current rotation players. We don’t have excess youngsters or surplus picks to package. Additionally, 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 trades make little sense when all you create are numerous roster holes and a newly acquired star that is suddenly looking for an out so he can get to a team that can really win.

    Absent PG, I don’t see a great fit with the unrestricted FAs left on the table in 2018. I’m not a fan of Westbrook’s ball dominant approach and in my mind he’s the type of player that will burn out early so he’s the classic buyer beware player. Ditto the buyer beware part for Cousins. Can’t see an All NBA IThomas leaving Boston. The rest of the guys you listed would be RFAs.

    However, I could envision scenarios, this summer, where the Lakers may be forced to make moves just to get talent on the team. I can see signing Blake Griffin to play PF and then packaging Randle for other assets. Or passing up the future chance for Paul George by wooing Gordon Hayward this summer (I know Hayward is a Tier 2 talent and is a lock to join the Celtics).

    I think this draft is critical. Keeping the pick and getting someone with superstar upside, like Alonzo Ball, would make me breathe a lot easier. That would mean we keep our 2019 pick. Additionally, that much young talent would take the pressure off of making a hasty move this summer and would almost guarantee a strong look from younger free agents next summer.

    If we lose the pick things are a bit unclear. Have the current kids developed enough to attract a tier one free agent this summer? Do the Lakers have to roll their cap space forward for one last shot at free agency in 2018? Will PG be there?

    After four consecutive years of pain so much of the Lakers future is still uncertain.

    10+

    • Mattal,

      Reed wrote this, not me. And, yes, the Lakers may end up w/o their 2017 & 2019 picks while also losing out on George. If that happens, I’ll be ready to deal. There will always be options to try and improve the team and that will mean making the best decisions from the choices available to you at the time. We’ll see what Magic and Pelinka do.

      2+

    • “Have the current kids developed enough to attract a tier one free agent this Summer?”

      I doubt it. Bad to mediocre teams typically have to overpay for mediocre (or worse) talent. That’s exactly what the Lakers did last off season. They were bad and therefore overpaid for lousy talent. They did a great job of overpaying; it’s their only area of excellence this year.

      I see no reason why they would be considered so much better this off season. Climbing from 2nd worse league record in ’16 to maybe 3rd worse record in ’17? Not exactly a compelling arc.

      0

  5. A Horse With No Name March 1, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    The proposal of Randle, Clarkson, the must get lucky lotto pick, and fillers is too rich. I think the Pacers would have to surrender their ’17 first round pick to even things up a bit. But I want the lakers to be agressive. The UFA I covet for the team is Hayward–he’s better than PG. Team first guy with underrated superstar skills that fit Luke’s offense even more than PG. Why would he leave Utah though? Well, because the lakers’ offense plays at a pace that maximizes his skills; the deep pockets of a large market team that is willing and able to pay for a championship payroll (unlike Utah); the chance to raise his brand under the big lights; very good to great young talent; and oh yeah, he spent time this past summer working with Kobe Bean (the lakers secret recruiting weapon).

    4+

    • Clay Bertrand March 1, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      “Why would he leave Utah though?”
      _________________________________________________

      IMO because he is going to sign with the Celtics where Brad Stevens, his college coach from Butler coaches.

      1.) They really need a wing like GH to go with who theyve got.
      2.) They have some cap space and many assets so they have a large window to compete.
      3.) They play in the Eastern Conference (which does not have the Warriors in it) and are the 2nd seed at the moment.
      4.) The aforementioned Brad Stevens connection cannot be ignored/underestimated.

      I think its a 2 team race between Utah and Boston. GH doesn’t seem like the Hollywood type.

      4+

      • Yeah. Hayward almost certainly isn’t going to leave a good team to play for a bad one. It is possible that one reason Boston didn’t make a deal for Butler or George is that they think that can sign Hayward.

        3+

  6. “Keep the powder dry, don’t sign 2017 free agents to multiyear deals, protect the 2018 cap room, and focus instead on letting the young core develop for another year.”

    Thats the way. If we keep the pick lets try to bring George in 2018 summer. No trades, lets keep these young guys together to make a consistent chemistry.

    The guys will develop a little more in 2017/2018 playing together knowing each other, our team will be better than this year. Its a process, no immediacy, sucess takes time.

    3+

  7. If we lose our 1st round pick in 2017, we can still trade the Houston pick. That would not violate the stepien rule since we had a pick in 2016 and would have a pick in 2018. We would also be able to trade the Houston or our pick in 2017 if we keep it and still be abiding by that stupid rule.

    PS I like going back to the old message board. I never made an account for livefyre.

    1+

  8. Awesome article Darius – seriously think you have more idea of the CBA than Jim did…..

    Just 2 things;
    – What if Swaggy exercises his player option?? You haven’t included him in 2017/18
    – You have given 2 different scenarios for Clarkson, in the same para – was one supposed to be Deng?
    “Or, more aggressively, they could attach their Houston first rounder to CLARKSON to try and both clear space and acquire a cheaper player or future pick they like, which would remove over $13M. The Lakers have several attractive assets that could be packaged with a contract they want to unload – Zubac, Nance, the Houston pick, etc. And CLARKSON is a $12M contract that should be moveable on its own to a team wanting to bring him into cap space.”

    0

    • Reed wrote it, not Darius.

      1) Re: Swaggy. Highly unlikely he opts in, there will be a ton of teams with cap space. I foresee a JR Smith-like scenario where Nick tries to get one more deal, even if it’s 15m over 3 years. Put it this way… it’s more likely he opts out than the Lakers keeping their pick, and a big chunk of this great article relies on the pick. The odds of Nick failing so badly in free agency that he would need to sign a minimum contract to stay in the league are pretty astronomical. Heck, he’d be a hit in China or Europe so I’d just take the money and play overseas.

      2) It’s the same scenario. Clarkson’s a young, exciting guard who’s making 12M, a fair contract. Out of the “big” contracts they have (Moz, Deng, JC), Clarkson is the only one “worth” his deal. Imagine this: it’s July 2nd, you’ve got a deal with a big free agent, but you need to clear at least 12m to make it happen. You call up the Sixers or Nets and say “Hey man, do us a solid, take this Deng contract off our hands, we’ll give you the Houston 1st…”. The other GM will be like “Nah son. That’s dead money. We’ll take Jordan Clarkson and that 1st tho”. If that’s what it takes to get that big-money free agent, Jordan is G-G-GONE.

      0

  9. Looking at the lists of free agents for both 2017 and 2018, and keeping in mind realistic available players (a mistake that the FO kept repeating the last few years, i.e. pursuing players that were most likely either to stay where they were or sign with a contender) I don’t really see many impact players that we have a realistic chance at or that would improve us all that much for the money we would have to pay.

    For better or for worse, (and I don’t think it’s that bad at all, even fun, patience will have to be the mantra etc.) the Lakers are almost all in on hoping our current young core develop and of course develop together and that we do indeed have a future all star or two on the team already.

    The exception for FA’s for 2017 that would fill a need is a quality point guard, (which would move Russell to the off guard, which is probably where he will will do very well) with the two players that I see being both a possibility and would improve our team are either Jrue Holiday or Jeff Teague. Statistically they are about even, with Holiday being younger, though has an injury history. Of course if we keep our top 3 pick and get a point guard, then maybe we don’t need either one. But, especially if we lose the pick, one of those players should be whom the Lakers pursue right from the start of free agency.

    Other than that, save the cap room, though the 2018 list of realistic players that fill a need seems slim as well.

    So that leaves us with the hope to keep the top 3 pick (and draft well of course) which is paramount and or a trade, which of course means sending out some part of the young core/picks. As with any trade risk and reward are the factors, we can only hope the right trade is made.

    Again, it almost seems we might just have to ride our young core and enjoy the process.

    0

  10. The Dude Abides March 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Interesting and informative post, Reed. I would hope that in the trade for George scenario, Magic and the gang know not to give up so much to Indy because the Pacers have no leverage. If we keep our pick and somehow get Ball or Fultz, then I’d rather we try and shed Deng’s contract by trading him and Russell to the Pacers for Paul George and filler, maybe someone like Georges Diang. We might have to give up the Houston pick, but if Bird doesn’t want to go along, then we tell him sayonara and we’ll see PG in one year.

    0

  11. Good comments all. I personally think that we don’t have all the leverage with Indy in a potential trade for George. One thing I failed to note is that if George makes an all nba season next year, then Indy can sign him to the higher designated veteran contract (35% of cap), and he’d be turning down significant money to leave for LA. He likely won’t make all nba this year, but he’s obviously good enough to have a shot next year. You also never know what can happen in 18 months – trades, Turner breaking out, family developments, etc. I’m not saying we should go trade for him (I still prefer to wait), but I don’t think we can act with great confidence he’ll just sign here in 2018 – that’s probably less likely than not, as good as the recent rumors sound. George aside, I think the key is only using cap money on impact players and prioritizing the core’s development the next two years. We’ll see how it goes …

    3+

    • Reed, once again fantastic piece. And you’re right about Indiana but we need to guard against getting too enamored with obtaining George that we give up more than we should. Our fallback position should be a willingness to keep our powder dry if the right combination fails to materialize this summer. Continued development of the young guys continues regardless as we still need to determine what we really have. One question I have though is what set of circumstances would there need to be for us to go into luxury tax territory for a year or two?

      1+

      • I agree with that and probably most hope we hold firm until 2018 and then go for George or another significant addition. I will admit that I’m anxious to add a young-ish impact player the next two years because I don’t believe a core of Russell/Ingram/Randle/Zubac will likely contend, and our options to add impact players without giving up our core substantially shrinks after the 2018 offseason (when the extensions start kicking in). But I do believe that our core plus a player like George (or perhaps who could get with a top 3 pick) could potentially contend, if the core develop as hoped. I am anxious to add one more big piece before the window closes. A two-way wing like George would also be an ideal on court fit with Russell/Ingram/Zubac…

        1+

  12. Amazing post Reed! Probably one of my favorite posts in a few years. Excellent analysis, wonderful tables, and great scenario-based reasoning & explanations.

    I do agree with the Dude Abides in that if we were to trade for PG and take back Monta’s salary, then they would have to take back Deng salary. I’d love for Magic to play hardball and give up Deng, Clarkson, 2017 mid-twenties pick, Randle, and/or filler (i.e. Brewer, etc.) for PG & Monta. A 3rd team could be involved to facilitate the trade/assets.

    Additionally, if we don’t use cap space in 2017, you can alternatively wait to waive & stretch Mozgov till after Sept 1. We will still be responsible for paying his $15.8 million for 2017-2018 season, but he will be stretched for 5 years at $6.5/mil per (instead of 7 years at $6.8/mil per). Now, say we do that and another team picks him off waivers and is willing to pay him say $7 million/year for a backup center. That is considered “set-off”. This means the amount the original team gets to set off is limited to one-half the difference between the player’s new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran during the season in which the player is waived. So hypothetically, let’s assume the minimum salary for a 1 year player is $1.5 million. That means we will be able to recoup $7 mil – $1mil divided by 2 = $3mil off the $15.8 mil.

    I believe this is correct (but anyone feel free to double-check).

    0

  13. Renato Afonso March 2, 2017 at 2:45 am

    I’m still not sure on which young players should be kept. Again, let’s keep measuring their growth until the end of the season to make sure. Clarkson, Russel and Randle would all net good assets in return. Ingram as well, but out of all of them he’s the only one that I would deem untradeable so far…

    1+

    • I agree on this. Its one reason I was upset about Russell getting jerked around on minutes earlier in the season. Not because I think he “deserves” extended playing time. But the Lakers need to know sooner rather than later what these guys really are. One of the best things about this post is pointing out how the bigger paydays for Randle and Russell are right around the corner.

      No matter what happens with Paul George I doubt all of the young Lakers will be here for the long haul. I just don’t see Magic, Pelinka, Luke and co. waiting on all these young guys to become gamers. There will be a trade or trades at some point. Probably in the near future. So these last 20 games could be the final audition for Russell, Randle, Clarkson, Nance, and even Ingram.

      0

  14. It’s an interesting read. Still some things like clearing Deng with Houston’s pick and Nance I don’t think are very realistic. I think free agency is important but, I wouldn’t bet everything on acquiring George. It sounds an awful lot alike Jim & Mitch chasing Anthony, Aldridge, etc. I personally believe that if the Lakers want to become an attractive free agent destination they need more than cap space. They need to trade some of their potential in their young core into tangible strong assets via trade. Then and only then do they need to worry about cap space. There is hope that the young guys through playing time will develop into those key assets that attract free agents. However, I think too many young guys actually stunts development.

    1+

  15. Though I understand, well, mostly, the finer points of Darius´ piece , I sincerely hope Jordan Clarkson isn´t moved – he´s the real deal IMO

    0

    • Clarkson is easily the most disposable from the bunch. He has a team friendly contract now too. He’s a nice player and I like him, but let’s not forget that he’s almost 25 now and has a PER below league average and gives you nothing more than some points off the bench (and not terribly efficiently either). He does seem to be playing better without Lou, so I’d like to evaluate him more.
      But DAR and Randle are 21 and 22 and already better than Clarkson (both are above league average in PER and still young pups). In 36 minutes, Russell projects as a 20/6/5 with a nice shot while Randle is a double double machine with versatility. Ingram’s stats are brutal, but he passes the eye test and looks like a natural. His struggles are hard to pin to anything more than being a skinny teenage playing 82 games against men that are stronger and more experienced.

      2+

  16. This is a great analysis Reed. The frustrating part is that if you were able to work all this out from publicly available information, what were Jim and Mitch thinking last summer? Not only are the Lakers still dealing with the failed Nash trade and losing two precious first round picks, they have also squandered their cap room right when the young core will need help. The critics of the Mosgov and Deng signings were very right.

    It does not make sense to trade the young players just yet. This season was spent building up Lou Williams’ value and that worked out okay. However, it kept Clarkson from being all he can be. In addition, they still have not learned how to play 24 seconds of defense and that does improve with time and experience. Randle and Nance need to keep working on their outside shots before we know how good they and the offense can be. There is much to be done and bringing in a veteran would hold the younger players back more than he would help.

    0

  17. Huge fan of Reed’s work, but I would agree that this is a little overly optimistic. The way the CBA, league, and media are today, it is, as we have seen, extremely hard to build through free agency. FA signings tend to be signings that finish off houses rather than laying foundations.
    So,although I am sure that Magic/Pelinka will want to do something splashy, IMO the Lakers simply need to stay the course, not trade young guys, and move slowly ahead.
    In the same way that many macro-analyses from 2011-15 all pretty much lead back to the Veto, I think a lot of stuff that happens from 2016-2019 will lead back to the DenGov deals. If the Lakers did not have those deals on the books and could trade for George and then sign a max guy to go with him and still have more money after that, then I could see an argument for trying for a quick reload. As it is, with 34M tied into those guys, I think the FO will need to be patient and ask the fanbase to do the same.

    1+

    • You know, I don’t think I made clear that this article was trying to look at what’s “possible,” not what’s “likely”… You’re right that these scenarios are very optimistic, and the actual future could be far less sunny. I was trying to figure out how much room Magic and Pelinka have to work with, and how the George angle could work, but I think it’s very possible we largely build around the young core and smaller additions… Hopefully at some point we get a big break or two.

      1+

      • reed: your dream scenario listed above is full of hopefuls and possibilities. anytime I see reference to lonzo ball I too become hopeful and mentally explore the possibilities. good work.

        1+

  18. As usual–great post Reed!
    And a great read.
    Always love getting your view on these sort of nuanced issues.

    I personally believe it would be too risky to wait to get PG in free agency.
    And I doubt Magic will take this approach because he will want to usher winning players in as soon as possible – as would I.
    Therefore I advocate trading for PG this summer.
    The keys to me will be:
    retaining this year’s draft pick, because it will grant us far more room to deal,
    and
    how desperate Bird gets to move PG this summer to avoid losing him outright.

    Despite PG’s posturing about his preference for the Lakers, a team like Boston or several others could trade for him hoping to re-sign him after a successful season, so this is another reason the Lakers should make a move for him while they can.
    Control your own destiny, I say.
    I would make similar necessary sacrifices for J Butler if he became available.
    Once we have one or the other, we become decidedly more attractive to the next crop of FAs.

    I also like Hayward but I find his departure from Utah unlikely.

    0

  19. “Under the CBA, a first round pick whose four year deal is expiring, and who makes less than the league average salary (as is the case with Randle), has a cap hold of 250% his prior salary, which would amount to approximately $10.4M”

    300% – under new CBA and 12,45M

    0

  20. Fantastic article Reed !
    Regarding, hopes for alternate free agents in the 2017, 2018 off seasons,..
    Since Magic is here, free agents will to listen to our pitch, however,..we can’t offer them what most are seeking,..which is – reaching for a title.
    Paul George however is simply wanting to come home, thus it seems that he’s the only star we have a shot at.
    Yes there are ways to package trades and picks for another star to play along side of PG, but the rumor is, that he realizes that gutting the team, for example adding Ingram and Russell in trade for him would put him in a worse situation here with regards to winning.

    0

  21. My understanding of the situation is that if PG makes any All NBA team the Pacers would be able to Franchise Tag him and offer a contract that would exceed $200 million in starting in 2018. The Lakers would not be able to come within $70 million of that offer. In my mind that would nip the PG to the Lakers talk in the bud.

    0

  22. Rick in Seattle March 2, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Many of us who were early critics of the Mozgov/Deng acquisitions last summer have been joined by increasing numbers of fans who are finally coming to realize the negative impact (primarily on future cap space) that these two terrible contracts will have moving forward. For a one or two year period, while the young core develops, they would have been tollerable. But, at four years, for two players already in their 30’s, these two contracts were outrageously indefensable, and for those decisions by themselve, Kupchak & Buss deserved their termination. Now the question seems to be, how can these mistakes be corrected with minimal loss to the Lakers.
    But clearly, for the sake of future cap space, let’s prioritize the removal of the Deng & Mozgov contracts. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that have consistently had difficulty retaining players. Mozgov still has some value. It is not unrealistic that some team might be interested in him as a backup center. It may require sending along some cash, or accepting a shorter, less desirable contract in return, or even sweetening the deal with a draft pick or two, but the possibility exists.
    Right now, the team has the Williams pick as well as the two 2nd round picks from the Calderon deal, to use.
    There are also teams that are continually rebuilding that seem willing to take on establihed veterans for the right price. And there are teams like Minnesota (Tibs) who have prior relationships with various players who may be inclined to reacquire them at the right price. MJ and Rob Pelinka need to focus and utilize their entire reservoir of skills to find suitable new homes for Deng & Mozov–and that’s the bottom line. Keeping them in place will be major roadblocks to the Lakers improving through free agency.

    2+

    • I don’t agree that moving both Deng and Moz should be the #1 priority, but moving at least one of them this summer should be a high priority. We are going to have to ‘sweeten’ the deal with picks and a player, but – IMO – Mozgov should be the one moved first (if at all possible). I see no way he can be used as long as we have Zu here, who positively requires minutes. Per John Ireland, he is already the 2nd name – after Ingram – that comes up from other clubs that want to do trades.
      Deng still has some use to more clubs and I think he might be moved at the trade deadline either next year or the year after.

      2+

  23. At first I thought Jimmy and Mitch did the best they could, have drafted well, and perhaps deserved to stay in an advisor role (at least for Mitch, Jim Buss can go back to the horse stables)

    But the MozDeng deals… yeah, you gotta go for that. Showed the lack of charisma and respect this front office was receiving by players and agents.

    1+

  24. Im hoping out that somewhere in Minnesota, Coach Thibs is getting itchy feet and would want to acquire a vet that is familiar with his system (Deng) and we get someone like Rubio/Muhammad/Stephenson/(gulp)Lavine. Its a long shot, but if its possible that a front office would take on both Mozgov and Deng, then maybe we shouldnt say never? Dont get me wrong, I too couldnt help but feel a sense of loss with the departure of Mitch, the architect of so much Laker success. No doubt we would be seeing him differently had it not been for the failed CP3 trade(s), but the Deng and Mozzie contracts didnt make sense when we took them on, and even less now

    For now, Im jumping on the (somewhere in between the ‘dream’ and ‘second best scenario’) band wagon. The thought of losing either Clarkson or Randle sucks, but I guess if its necessary then so be it

    0

  25. A Horse With No Name March 2, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    How good is PG? I watched the end of the Spurs/Pacers game the other night, and the difference between PG and KL, was marked. Kawhi played under control, calmly making the right decision to score or pass and coming up clutch as the go-to guy for the Spurs down the stretch. Kawhi was able to use his great upper body strength and wide shoulders to create space against PG and score the winning basket. PG in contrast, looked a bit scattered in his effort, and his teammates were not looking for him to take over in the decisive waning moments. You could say that KL is easily the better player, but that doesn’t really say enough about how good of a player PG is or isn’t. FWIW, I rank the NBA’s top threes as follows: LBJ, Durant, Kawhi, Giannis,Gordon Hayward, PG, and a nod to Andrew Wiggins as a rapid riser. Given his age, and unlimited potential, Giannis has as much value as any of them. Which brings me to our young assets. Can a deal that doesn’t include either Ingram or Russell net PG? Only perhaps if the lakers luck into the first or second pick and combine said pick with Randle and fillers. Right there that’s a lot to give up; most draft geeks see stardom for Ball and Fultz–plus Randle who *still* may develop into something special. In a word, maybe the lakers should pass on dealing for George and try to build out the roster with solid vets (I know, like who?). Patience may be the best course, but Magic may be too eager to make his mark and damage the future in the process.

    1+

    • I wouldn’t worry too much about Magic damaging the future; the people who came before him locked that down pretty nicely, to be honest.

      0

  26. Reed,

    Let me add my congratulations to those that others have already expressed. This is a superb, truly thoughtful, well-researched piece. It’s work like this (and Darius’s regular posts) that make FB&G the unparalleled site that it is.

    Put me in the camp that says we should keep our powder dry and let the kids develop over the next two years or so. I think that that’s a preferable strategy to making any sudden, rash trades or signing any other veterans through Free Agency. (Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson.) I think it’s best that we play things safe, at least for the time being. I say that for several reasons.

    1) The Lakers FO has made some dubious decisions over the last few years, goodness knows. But one of it’s acknowledged strengths has been its ability to draft wisely and well. I consider the Lakers’ core as one might consider a series of financial investments. When you buy stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, the experts say that if they don’t prove disastrous in the short term, then it’s best to hang on to them. The analogy isn’t perfect, I realize. But there are some parallels. Put simply, the Lakers have drafted well. The selection of Ingram, Russell, and Randle — however much we may complain about those players — certainly looks justifiable in hind sight. It would be a shame to bail out on any of these players after, say, just one more year. My gut tells me that we should hang on to them. In fact, I feel the same about Clarkson, Nance, and Zubac. The drafting of those 3 players, in my view, given all the options, was shrewd, insightful, even brilliant. Clarkson, for example, was a #46 pick in his draft class by Washington. The Lakers purchased him from the Wizards for $1.2 million. This was an extraordinary transaction. Looking back at that draft, he would, I think, almost assuredly go in the top 10. In other words, we’ve done extremely well in our draft. I say let’s ride it out…at least a while longer. We’d be fools not to.

    2) Of our 6 core players (Ingram, Zubac, Russell, Randle, Clarkson, and Nance), 2 are 19 years old (!), one is 21, one is 22, and two are 24. Despite the claims of some commenters who insist that Clarkson has already peaked at the age of 24 and will never improve another millimeter in his career (which I wholeheartedly disagree with), none of these players has reached his peak. Ingram and Zubac are, of course, only 19. Who’s to say how good they’ll be in 5 years (when they’ll be all of 24)? In other words, these players are all moving targets. All of them. We have no idea how good they’re going to be in 4 years. I’d like to have a much better idea as to what we have with each one before we start trading them out left and right simply because they’re “assets.” I have horrible nightmares of our trading Ingram and/or Clarkson and then 2 years down the road watch each one scorch the Lakers by going for 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists against us. That would be unfortunate. And we’d have no one to blame but ourselves.

    All of this is to say, let’s stay cool. Yes, I know. Losing’s not fun. But Darius has already told us (several times) that the growth process is not linear. It’s jagged and ugly and painful. But there’s no other way. The seasons we should all be most excited about should be 2018 and 2019 (and beyond). How good will Ingram and Zubac be then? How will Russell and Randle have matured and developed their games? Will Clarkson and Russell be the backcourt tandem that we’ve all been hoping for? Will Larry Nance, Jr. figure out how to be a consistent contributor on offense as well as one of our best defenders?

    We won’t know the answers until then. But I think the Lakers owe it to themselves to find out.

    6+

    • Great comment — hard to disagree with a word … And I absolutely share your position on Clarkson.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      0

    • -We have no idea how good they’re going to be in 4 years-

      I don’t think this is quite true. These guys are young, but they have stat markers, comps, observable physical traits, and skillsets. Ingram has a wide variance in how good he can be, but even for a guy his age, a 7.3 PER is low. I mentioned awhile back that Zubac reminds me of Andrew Bynum in some ways, and looking at Bynum’s numbers for his age-19 season (his second year) and Zubac’s this year reinforces that perception.

      So, I will stick to my opinion that none of the Lakers’ young guys will be a franchise cornerstone. I do think that three and maybe four of them (Russell, Ingram, Zubac, and Randle if you squint hard) do have a shot to be borderline ASG-20 PER type guys. It is not the best hand to have, but I think that the Lakers FO needs to play it out for another couple of years.

      2+

  27. Hi Reed,

    I like these forward thinking analyses, since they provide us with trade-off scenarios we wouldn’t otherwise consider. What is encouraging about our current situation is that we are on the threshold of making meaningful positive changes in the right direction in quite a few different ways. Getting our draft pick this year would IMO seal the deal.

    With draft picks and young talent in hand, trade prospects change dramatically. The only thing out of whack is cap space, which points us to Timofey and Luol, but we must not think too simplistically about them. It’s not their deficiencies as players so much as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mozkov remains a valuable backup center, but on a non playoff team that can’t appreciate his contributions. He should be playing somewhere else. Deng could be a team leader to stabilize a younger team a bit further along–Maybe he should be playing in Minnesota. Their current salaries are about twice their current values, but adjustments can be made in the trading world. You’ve shown the extreme option of a stretch for one of them–which I hadn’t considered–but I don’t think we’re there for awhile yet.

    Trades are always risky, but trading seems even more inevitable than I realized before your analysis. A great championship team always has a mixture of younger and older players, and we’re about to get younger than we should be while remaining a bit too old–that why Paul George is so intriguing–but I keep thinking that Griffin, Cousins, or someone we’re not even thinking of right now, might somehow become a trade target.

    I remember us landing Pau Gasol more by accident than shrewd trading . . . .

    0

    • Drrayeye, I remember well our discussions on the message board here over 10 years ago under Kurt’s reign … And I have not forgotten that you were the first one on the trade for Pau train… It’s been a long time, so it’s good to reconnect and see your always insightful thoughts …

      0

    • Mitch had been talking to Memphis for almost a year before the Pau trade. It was just that the pieces didn’t drop into place until we drafted Mark Gasol and the season started to play out. Then pressure started to build on both the Lakers (Kobe) and Memphis (Pau).

      0

      • That moment when I found out we traded for Pau was one of my greatest sport-fan moments. I can still picture exactly where I was when the news broke. It’s right there with Horry’s three over Sacramento, Fisher’s .4 shot, the Portland comeback, Boston game 7, etc. Because we immediately knew it saved Kobe in LA….

        0

  28. Wow
    Very well written piece.
    Thank you

    0

  29. I really hope we don’t trade for George. I think he is overrated. Just look at his PER. George is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but he isn’t a number one option for a contender. Just like Melo isn’t. And so why pay him max? Do you really see George leading a team to a championship? Also, he would stop the development of our young pups. I think Ingram has the potential to be a similar player. Josh Jackson too. So I say let’s give them a chance. At least until we land a sure fire game changer. That isn’t George…

    2+

    • I am starting to agree with this sentiment. We are going to try to put all our eggs in the Paul George Basket for a guy who will end up essentially being the 7th best at his position in the league (this season) AND we gotta pay MAX SALARY for him. Getting him as a FA is obviously less painful.

      He IS a good player. I just don’t see him as Super Elite. He’d be a great SECOND or THIRD Star player. I just don’t think he is the MAIN guy such that we should be moving most of our core players to acquire at this point. ESPECIALLY with little Cap Space and few desirable FA stars available to put with him.

      I REALLY hope Pelinka is smart enough to take the LONG VIEW and not feel pressure to HAVE to bring in PG just because there are rumors that he wants to be here. Pelinka of all people should understand how that kind of leak produces leverage for the Player and his Agent.

      INTERESTING COINCIDENTAL TID BIT HERE—DON’T SLEEP ON THIS FACT:
      Paul George is represented by Aaron Mintz………who ALSO represents BOTH D’Angelo Russell, AND Julius Randle……

      Knowing how Agents help facilitate trades and are often VERY involved in transactions, Mintz could be right in the middle of things………..

      0

  30. I was always a supporter of Mitch and thought he got undeserved criticism until Deng and Mozgov deals. Those were fireable signings there in light of the rebuilding. However, I think Jim put pressure on him to make a splash so the team would improve so they could both save their jobs. These were the best options and they had to overpay. It failed but Mitch deserves a lot of praise. This isnt the 80s or even 90s NBA anymore. We are almost like Notre Dame football now and we just brought back Knute Rockne to save us.

    I love Magic but Pelinka is more valuable.

    We need to lose every game and get that pick and then reevaluate. We made the bottom out model our goal so it must be done to completion. This is the final step. I am not sure where the money will come from to make us competitive as I assume we will be paying all our young guys simply because its too risky to let them go when they are so young.

    The team will become good again by signings like Isaiah Thomas Jr to a less than max type deal before the become great. Otherwise what will become available wont matter. The key will be these young guys becoming real stars. If not, we are just Minnesota.

    2+

  31. The Lakers youth movement isn’t as young as it once was. The Lakers F.O. ideally should be deciding who is or isn’t a long term solution before their rookie contract is over. This means deciding about Randle this summer and Russell and Nance by the following summer.

    I think the young Lakers need playing time but, I think Deng and Brewer need minutes to decide how to handle them next year. I would send Nance down to the G-League to make him a priority option on offense. He looked great this Summer but, stopped taking shots on the regular roster. I’d like to make him look for his offense by making it obvious he is a priority option. I would continue to start Randle as we need a look at him. I would bring Deng off the bench to back up Randle at PF. If Deng plays well there as previous evidence suggests it would increase his trade value to move his contract or see if he is a viable option if the FO decides to move Randle. I would continue starting Ingram at SF and back him up with Brewer to see if he can mesh with the guys we got.

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  32. Rick in Seattle March 3, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Yes, the Lakers appear to have enough cap room this summer to add a free agent (Lowry, Griffin, Hayward?), if they choose to do so.
    But, its way too early to even consider some of these options until the team knows whether it keeps its top-3 protected pick. Yes, its good to have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. But, keeping their pick will make a huge difference in how they move forward, particularly if Reed is correct that they only have a 2-year window, before they start issuing veteran contracts to their young core.

    However, they could make a move like bringing in Griffin in free agency, and then trading Clarkson, Randle & the Williams pick to Indy for George. In doing that you remove current (Clarkson) and future (Randle) salary roadblocks, giving the team a bit of cap space breathing room. Such a scenario would still require moving at least one of the two Deng/Mozgov roadblocks. While
    I hate the idea of stretching Deng, perhaps the new Lakers FO can find some financially acceptable way to move that contract to another team.
    If the Lakers keep their top-3 pick, it diminishes the need to bring in expensive veteran stars. As their young core continues to improve, there will understandably be a wider variety of free agents (like Lowry), who express interest in coming to the Lakers. Keeping this years pick will only enhance that reputation.

    Magic is following the agenda of the owner (Jeanie) to more quickly build a contender. Despite his statements to the contrary, one of my fears right now is that Magic tries to fast track the rebuild by trading the young core for borderline all-stars like George. My plan would be to continue to develop the current young core, while adding quality vets that want to come to LA in free agency like Lowry and others. From year to year its difficult to know what free agents are available and interested. That makes it imperitive that a rebuilding team like the Lakers keep enough flexible cap space to make those decisions. And that is why the long term signings of Deng & Mozgov were so disasterous–by locking in $34 mil in cap space over four years (for two very average, over 30 veterans).

    I am more and more convinced that adding available quality veterans–in free agency, not expensive trades– is the better route going forward. To do that they need cap space, therefore removing Den & Mozgov should remain a priority

    2+

  33. Looks like Jimmy is trying to take the team back. Seems we’ll find out in May.
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/la-sp-buss-lakers-20170303-story.html

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  34. Holy Crap!!! The plot Thickens in the FO………. Ownership can’t get their heads out of their A$$ES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Stability huh???? SMH

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  35. Jeannie put a restraining order to her brothers to prevent them to push her out. What the hell is going on? The war is here…

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  36. Rick in Seattle March 3, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    The Reed article is very informative. Hope we see more of that. And the comments are also very good.

    When Mitch was able to bring in Pau as well as Ron Artest, two of my favorite players, I thought Mitch had again worked his magic (no pun intended). It brought two more banners, and close to a third.

    But veteran players have a set life expectancy. If the Lakers were closer to contending, some of the proposed trades might make sense. I like Butler, Cousins & George. All could probably obtained for the right price.

    But ( and this is a big BUT), the current team of core players are not ready to be contenders–even IF they were able to add Ball or Fultz. There is growth and potential within this core, and possibly in two years we may see a 6 to 8 seed, depending on how quickly the core improves, and what veteran assets the FO puts around them.

    But unless someone in the FO has unique vision, it is quite difficult to predict how successful this core will become. We have seen stories all around the NBA about how players were traded away before they hit their peak.

    So, as anxious as I am, and I know most of you are, let’s be patient and finish the rebuild methodically, and not go off the deep end YET for a Boogie Cousins, or a a Jimmy Butler, or a Paul George! Because by the time the current core is really ready to contend, those current all-stars will be beyond their peak and on their way down–similar but not quite as bad as the current situation with Luel Deng, who some of you may remember was a former all-star when he played with Chicago,

    If LA keeps its top 3 pick this year, that will be another huge rebuilding step. With that in place, the FO could assess this core for at least one more season, while surrounding the core with a few more cost effective veterans of the Lou Williams variety.

    I sincerely hope that Magic holds back his inclination to trade away this promising core for quick temporary improvement. Remember, the Pau Gasol–Ron Artest–Kobe Bryant window of success was only 3-4 years long.
    Players already in their prime dont have a long shelf life!

    Magic Johnson was unusual. He won a title in his rookie season as a Laker. That rarely happens. So, Magic, be awfully careful what you wish (er, trade) for!

    3+

  37. Rick in Seattle March 3, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Just a final thought:

    If you were Magic Johnson & Jeanie Buss, and you were interested in creating the excitement of showtime Lakers basketball,

    Would you rather build around Ball, Fultz or Josh Jackson, or around Paul George? similarly,

    Would you rather build around Cousins or Randle?

    If this team has plans to be playoff competitive in the next two years, my guess is that the Lakers FO will make a major push for players the likes of Butler, Cousins and/or George in the very near future, even if it results in the loss of a few ‘core’ players. Remember the old saying, ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’!
    Players like Butler, Cousins & George have a certain demonstrated quality, that the young core players have yet to demonstrate. Dont be surprised if Magic makes a few deals down the road. For the team’s sake, I hope that ridding themselves of the Deng & Mozgov contracts are high on their to-do list. Beware the ides of March everybody, as the NBA season slowly grinds to a close.

    2+

  38. Rick in Seattle March 4, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Just to clarify, I’m not advocating an immediate (2017) trade for a star player. My position is and has been the same as Mr. Reed, to continue the development process at least one more year, particularly if the team keeps its top-3 pick.

    But, at the same time, Magic & the FO must be carefully assessing the rest of the league, and determining the value of various players in the league–including our own.
    They must be particularly astute to the interests of teams like Chicago, Indiana, New Orleans, who have players that interest the Lakers.

    Example: If a team that really needs or wants a point guard, falls in love with Fultz or Ball, and the Lakers (who dont have an immediate need) are in position to draft either one, it opens up interesting trade opportunities.
    Those are opportunities that one would fully expect the FO would maximize, if and when it occurs.

    Let the process play out. Let’s not make some irrational hot-headed trades to try to re-invent the ‘showtime’ era!

    If you are so inclined, pray for a top-3 pick, as well as an acceptable means to dispose of the the Deng & Mozgov contracts.

    For now, we all wait to see how the ping-pong balls drop on Lottery night! Lots of future decisions (all around the NBA) will be riding on that outcome….

    2+

  39. Rick in Seattle March 5, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Again, my complements to Reed for a very informative and thought-provoking article. With 60 responses in the comments section, your article has clearly generated significant interest surrounding the Lakers upcoming moves to improve the team.

    For his next project, perhaps Mr Reed would be willing to put together analysis of the available free agents (2017 & 2018), as well as an assessment of this years top 3-4 draft picks, and their projected fit with the Lakers existing young core.

    Considering that there are probably six NBA teams that could really use a quality young point guard (including Chicago & New Orleans), it raises some really interesting trade opportunities, should the Lakers luck into the 1st or 2nd pick. Should the Lakers win the 3rd pick and decide to select Josh Jackson, his skill set would seem to be a very nice fit at shooting guard with the current core. In fact, Jackson might lessen the need to acquire a Butler or a George. Just something to consider.

    By the way, I think its still more likely that George goes to the Celtics, due to Larry Bird’s history with that team. That might leave the Lakers looking at the Bulls’s Butler, and a trade opportunity if the Lakers select Ball or Fultz.

    Another thing to remember is that, as soon as the regular season ends, non-playoff teams can make deals among themselves, prior to the draft, as can playoff teams after they are eliminated. So, some wheeling & dealing can still take place before summer free agency starts.

    1+

    • Thanks Rick. Appreciate the great comments from you and others on this, and always looking for things to write about. As the offseason approaches I’ll surely put some thoughts together here and there, Darius willing… Working on something now that looks closely at a few of our fundamental on court offensive issues with the current group, which also will impact the kinds of players we need to target this offseason.

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  40. Rick in Seattle March 5, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    For those of you who were wondering:

    The NBA draft lottery (roll of the ping-pong balls) occurs on May 16.

    The actual 2017 NBA Draft takes place on June 22.

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