We have officially hit a lull in the roster construction portion of the off-season. The Lakers had an eventful stretch from late June through the first week of July, adding players who will be key contributors to next year’s team.
For summary purposes, let’s run down the transactions:
- Drafted Brandon Ingram
- Drafted Ivica Zubac
- Signed Timofey Mozgov in Free Agency
- Signed Luol Deng in Free Agency
- Re-signed Jordan Clarkson
- Traded for Jose Calderon
- Re-signed Tarik Black
- Re-signed Marcelo Huertas
While not all of the contracts associated with these deals are officially signed (we’ll discuss this more in a bit), all of these agreements have been reported by credible sources. Add the players listed above with those who were already under contract and the Lakers have commitments to 14 players.
The question is, are they done?
Answering this isn’t as straight forward as it may seem. Based on the above, they have 1 open roster spot. But that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Let’s take a quick look at the team’s projected depth chart:
PG: Russell, Calderon, Huertas
SG: Clarkson, Lou Williams, Anthony Brown
SF: Deng, Ingram, Nick Young
PF: Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr.
C: Mozgov, Black, Zubac
This looks like a pretty complete roster to me. It remains to be seen how good this group could be, but they have ample depth at every spot, have good positional versatility, and have a nice mix between young players and veterans.
There is still a question about Nick Young, however. What happens with him doesn’t necessarily impact the rotation much, but it would open up a roster spot and, in theory, open up an opportunity for a wing who can play either SG or SF to be an “emergency” sub or the type of player who could see somewhat regular minutes should Luke Walton decide he will consistently play 10-11 players (which he might).
If the Lakers are to make a move, there is a question of how much cap space they have to actually do so. As it stands, the team has officially announced the signings of Mozgov, Deng, and Clarkson. The Calderon trade is also official, so his contract is on the books.
This leaves the contracts for Black, Huertas, and Ingram all unsigned. There is also a question of whether Zubac is yet signed, but let’s say for the sake of argument he is. The players who are not yet signed give the Lakers some wiggle room to add another player via trade or in free agency into currently unused cap space. This is mostly relevant because of Tarik Black’s contract. The difference between the deal he has reportedly agreed to and his cap hold is a shade over $5 million. The Lakers could use Black’s “early Bird” rights to go over the cap to sign him.
This matters because if Black were to be the last Laker signed, they could have roughly $13 million in cap space to sign another player (or players) and then go over the cap to sign Black. This number could go up by around another $2.2 million should the Lakers use the stretch provision on Young. This would give them roughly $14.5 to $15 million in space. That’s enough to sign a good player, if they so chose.
Again, though, I do not expect this to happen. The Lakers’ rotation looks to be about set. The commitments they have made in free agency to this point (including Lou’s signing last year) and via their drafted prospects over the last 3 years are enough to take up nearly all the minutes available. Any player added now is, basically excess. The Lakers also likely do not want to commit any additional dollars to free agents who would be on next year’s books as that would further impact the money they could offer to that season’s FA prizes.
As it stands, then, I think what we see is what we’ll have when it comes to the start of the season. There could still be small tweaks (or a major trade could blow it all up), but from where I sit the roster seems pretty set.