Earlier in the day Friday the Lakers waived Kendall Marshall, simultaneously creating some cap space but also creating an extra roster spot to fill. The team wasted little time in filling Marshall’s vacated spot, and more, inking some familiar faces to contracts:
Archives For Free Agents
The Lakers are not done making moves, apparently. In an effort to open up a sliver of cap space (more on this in a minute), the team has moved on from the Kendall Marshall era (at least in the short term):
Lakers waiving guard Kendall Marshall, but have interest in bringing him back on a new deal if he clears waivers, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 18, 2014
Marshall’s salary for this upcoming season — $915,243 — was not guaranteed, so the Lakers take no hit for waiving Marshall and open up that amount of cap space. This may not seem important, but, in reality, it was a needed move if the team wants to keep Ryan Kelly while also signing Nick Young to his reported deal.
If you follow me on twitter, you know how I feel about this particular player by now. If you don’t, well, just know I am not a fan.
But this isn’t about me, it is about the player the Lakers just signed to a one year, $3.251 million (that extra 10K was tacked on a la a Price Is Right bid) contract via the amnesty waiver claim on Thursday. So, yes, Carlos Boozer is a Laker.
I’ll save the negativity for later, so if that’s what you came for just scroll down a bit.
I have openly wondered whether or not the Lakers would make another move in this free agent period. My hope, of course, is that they will. In order to sign another impact player, however, it’s important to understand what tools the team still has in their bag to accomplish this goal. With that in mind, I did some research on the Lakers’ cap situation to try and sort out exactly where they stand and what they can still do to improve the roster.
As of Monday, the Lakers have financial commitments — either already on the books or verbally — to nine players. Below are those players and their salary cap numbers (please note that these numbers are pretty rough, but should get us in the ballpark of where the team is payroll wise):
- Kobe Bryant – $23.5 million
- Steve Nash – $9.701 million
- Jeremy Lin – $8.374 million
- Jordan Hill – $6.770 million (cap hold; salary will go up to $9 million once contract is signed)
- Julius Randle – $2.497 million (100% of his slotted salary spot; will go up to $2.997 when his contract becomes official)
- Nick Young – $915K (cap hold; salary will go up to at least $4.5 million in the first year of his contract, could be higher)
- Ryan Kelly – $1.016 million (this is the amount of Kelly’s qualifying offer that made him a restricted free agent)
- Robert Sacre – $915K
- Kendall Marshall – $915K (non-guaranteed salary)
If the Lakers were to renounce the rights to all the other free agents they have on their roster, they would also add cap holds in the form of $500K each for four additional players to bring them up to the minimum roster of 13. Add all these numbers together, including the aforementioned $500K and the Lakers are roughly — again roughly — at a payroll of $55.877 million*. The salary cap for next year is $63.065 million, leaving the Lakers about $7.5 million in cap space.
Of that $7.5 million, Nick Young’s salary eats up a major piece of it. Remember, until he is signed, he is only on the books for the amount of his cap hold. After Young’s salary, the rest of the money is slated to go to Jordan Hill who, like young, will be paid more than the amount of his cap hold. So, basically, the Lakers don’t have any cap space.
Not so fast.
Due to Jordan Hill** not yet signing, the Lakers actually do have cap space. As mentioned above, the difference between his cap hold and his starting salary next season is about $2.3 million. As long as Hill remains unsigned, this difference is cap space the Lakers have at their disposal. Also important is that the Lakers have Hill’s Bird Rights. This means they can go over the salary cap to sign him to his contract as long as they never renounce his free agent rights (meaning his cap hold will remain on the Lakers’ books).
What does this mean? It means that the Lakers have a little bit of wiggle room to chase another free agent. That, however, could be a bigger chunk of room if the Lakers take one last step: waiving Steve Nash via the “stretch provision”. This provision would allow the Lakers to spread out Nash’s salary this season over 3 years, reducing his cap figure to a shade over $3.2 million this season and opening up an additional $6.468 million in cap space.
Suddenly, the Lakers would have around $9 million to chase a free agent. This is not a small number and could, potentially, land a very good player (Lance Stephenson?) or two good, rotation players.
Of course, the Lakers would need to be willing to take the hit on Nash’s contract while essentially paying him to go away all while forfeiting cap space over the next two summers when they would be looking to add to the roster via free agency. Those scenarios inherently mean maximizing cap space and having Nash’s since expired deal still counting against the cap would be a drain. With the cap likely rising the hit wouldn’t be too severe, but it also wouldn’t be nothing.
When looking at this from every angle, I would be okay with using the stretch provision on Nash if the Lakers had a free agent commit to them who was worth it. The only target on the market I could see being worth this is Lance Stephenson since A). he’s an unrestricted free agent and once he commits there is no recourse from the Pacers to match (unlike Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe) and B). he is young enough where, if he can be had on a short 2 or 3 year deal (arguable if that is even possible) he can be a good asset in the short term who can be evaluated as a potential long term fit.
That is a lot of ifs and not a sure thing by any means. But the idea is worth exploring. The Lakers are in a position where they have used all their cap space and need to try and explore creative ways to generate more spending to improve the roster on the floor if they are really going to sell people that they are trying to compete for a playoff spot next season. Because as it stands now, filling out this roster with veteran minimum contracts after simply inking Young and Hill to their deals is highly unlikely to be a good team next year***.
*Thanks to Larry Coon and Eric Pincus for help in trying to sort out these numbers and the rules that the Lakers would be trying to navigate. Again, the numbers I have listed should not be taken as gospel, but they are in the ballpark and close enough that they are worth exploring.
**This is possible to do with Hill, but not Nick Young because the Lakers do not possess Young’s Bird Rights. They also need to fall below the cap to absorb Jeremy Lin’s contract, so Young’s salary must be paid out of cap space.
***There is a strong argument to be made that even by stretching Nash and adding Stephenson, the Lakers wouldn’t be good enough to make the playoffs, so why spend the money? I understand this sentiment and don’t entirely disagree. The West is a minefield and, just like last season, the odds are a good team (or more) miss the playoffs out West. The reason why I’d support signing a guy like Lance is because at some point the Lakers must actually add talent to their roster and build the foundation for a winning team. Lance is not a superstar, but he’s a good player. He has been a fixture of the Pacers’ best lineups the last two seasons and has excellent two way potential.
The Lakers need more players like him if they are to attract quality free agents. Don’t think of it as “will stars come to play with Lance Stephenson?” but rather “will stars come to play on a barren roster devoid of talented players?”. I think the answer to that question is “no” even with the Lakers’ brand and history making the pitch. At some point the Lakers need to start grabbing mid to upper-tier prospects — especially young ones — who can form the nucleus of a good team that superstars want to join or be the base of trades to acquire them.
It hasn't been easy. After meditating it a lot I've chosen to play with the Chicago Bulls. Looking forward to this new chapter of my career
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) July 12, 2014
And with that simple announcement, Pau Gasol is a Laker no more. It is fitting that the man from Spain, where this happens yearly, has decided to join the Bulls.
In reality, we have known for some time that this day was coming. On his own website, after the season, Pau said that money would not matter as much as the chance to compete for and win championships. While the Lakers could offer the cash they cannot offer the high level team needed to advance deep into the playoffs. Gasol knows this just as well as we do and while his decision was surely difficult, you have to imagine this fact proved to be the tipping point.
As for whether or not the Lakers will get one last parting gift from Pau via trading him to Chicago, that seems unlikely.
Bulls in the process of finalizing a free agent deal with Pau Gasol. Will not be a sign-and-trade with Lakers, sources told ESPN.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 12, 2014
Once acquired for expiring contracts, unproven talent, and draft picks while also being the key player who was to net the Lakers Chris Paul, Gasol now parts the team on his own terms and leaves them empty handed. The circle of NBA life is funny that way.
While the latter stages of Gasol’s time with the Lakers was somewhat tarnished by trade rumors and having his role jerked around, he will forever be remembered by me as a true warrior who gave his all to the organization to help it reach the top of the mountain. The Lakers don’t win their 2009 and 2010 championships without the Spaniard’s overall brilliance, without him being the inside foundation to complement Kobe’s wizardry from the wing. That duo formed one of the league’s best tandems, torturing opponents with diverse and immense skill and iron willed determination that spearheaded three straight trips to the finals and back to back championships.
Just as Kobe and Pau’s skills meshed masterfully, so did their personalities. Pau, by default is an introspective, and even polite, person. His more calm and patient demeanor played off Kobe’s more outwardly fiery personality perfectly and allowed them (along with Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom) to provide a full scope of leadership that those teams needed. They also, of course, found a perfect partnership in the most simple thing of all: a shared love of the game. During time on the bench or at glimpses behind the scenes, you would often see those two going over strategy and planning how to dissect a defense in order to get a key basket. And while there were times that Kobe could be hard on Pau publicly (his “big boy pants” comment comes to mind) these two were mostly on the same page, speaking the same language of winning basketball players.
Those days are over now, though. Fisher and Phil have long been gone. Odom too. Role players like Ariza and Ron, Farmar and the Machine came and went. But there was always Pau. But now he is a Bull.
And while Kobe will have new teammates, in a way he is now alone.
I, for one, will still root for Gasol and wish him nothing but success. The memories he brought me are simply too good for me to ever think of him negatively. I will always remember his chemistry with Kobe, how he instantly connected with Odom, how he took to the Triangle like a fish to water, and how he always seemed to take everything in stride like a true professional. Yes, he spoke his mind and could needle people in the press with the best of them, but even in these times he spoke with an elegance and grace and calm knowing that was respectful and measured.
I am sure he will do the same in Chicago. And will be watching from afar hoping he brings their fans some of the same joy he brought me.