Unlike past seasons, the Lakers have wasted no time in free agency this summer. After reportedly agreeing to a contract with Cavs big man Timofey Mozgov for 4 year, $64 million contract, the team took care of one of their own free agents late last night.
Jordan Clarkson has reached agreement on a four-year, $50M deal to return to the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2016
There was a question among observers on whether the Lakers would use Clarkson’s Arenas Rule eligibility as a way to advantage his free agent status and preserve some short-term cap space, but they have decided not to extend things out and just sign him outright. There will be no telling Clarkson to determine his market value with other teams or to even sign an offer-sheet.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach, for sure. On the plus side, the Lakers avoid the potential for any perceived “disrespect”. They clearly want Clarkson back and the best way to express that is to negotiate in earnest, not let another team woo him. Also, signing Clarkson themselves eliminates the potential for a team to try putting balloon payment(s) in years 3 and/or 4 of his contract and using the mechanics of an Arenas Rule offer-sheet to potentially force the Lakers into paying upwards of $20 million a year in the final seasons of this deal.
This type of cost certainty is valuable and makes navigating the salary cap in future seasons more predictable. The Lakers now do not have to worry about a huge jump in pay in a season when the cap is expected to flatten or, as some expect, even decline. Sam Amick of USA Today reported this was a potential concern for the Lakers.
On the other side of this equation, the Lakers have diminished their spending power for this and next summer. Signing Clarkson was always going to take up cap space (in both summers), but if he would have signed an offer-sheet with another team, the most his salary could have been in the first two years of the deal was about $5.6 then $5.9 million. The Lakers will (potentially) pay him double that, depending on the exact terms of his contract’s yearly breakdown.
Finding a way to leverage the Arenas rule to maximize spending flexibility was a tactic many endorsed (including myself). Maybe the team did not want the potential headache of that arrangement. Or maybe eliminating the potential of a big jump in his salary really did concern. But in a spending environment which will be competitive over the next two summers, having that extra juice may have helped them.
Of course, those are all hypotheticals. The Lakers went for the sure thing and have their guy. I have critiqued some parts of Clarkson’s game which need improving (specifically his defense and his need to still be a playmaker for others), but he’s an emerging player who has improved his outside shooting and a workaholic in the gym. He has good chemistry with the core of young players the Lakers have assembled. He wants to be a great player and wants to do so in Los Angeles for the Lakers.
These are all positives and I am happy to have him back. The terms of his contract are reasonable and if he follows even a conservative development arc, his contract will represent a really nice value when the cap jumps again next season and then flattens out at near $110 million. All in all, then, this is a good deal for the Lakers.