We have discussed at length the Lakers looking to use the mechanics of the collective bargaining agreement to their advantage to keep cap space open. The key to holding that space open is Tarik Black and the difference between his cap hold and the contract the Lakers have agreed to with him, but the deals for Marcelo Huertas and Brandon Ingram also play a role in this.
With Ingram, though, the difference actually isn’t all that much. His cap hold, dictated by the collectively bargained and already established salary slotted to the the #2 overall pick is roughly $4.4 million for this upcoming season. Rookie 1st rounders can sign for anywhere between 80% – 120% of that amount with most picks getting 120% based on historical standard.
The difference between his cap hold and the 120% standard is roughly $820K. Not a small sum of cash in real world standards and certainly enough where it could be meaningful in any sort of deal which the team wants to leverage its cap space, but it’s also not a huge enough where it is likely to make a big difference.
Ingram, though, isn’t the only 1st round pick who is unsigned. He is, in fact, one of three:
Still 3 rookie scale contracts (not players stashed) unsigned; Brandon Ingram (LAL), Thon Maker (MIL) and Domantas Sabonis (OKC).
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 29, 2016
It’s hard to know why any of these guys remain unsigned. My thought process on Ingram has always been tied to the article I linked to above — that the Lakers are trying to keep open cap space should an advantageous trade pop up. This makes sense and I have no reason to actually believe it is anything else. Let me repeat, there is no reason to actually believe anything else.
However, if I put on my tin foil hat and conspiracy theory glasses, there might be another reason. After 1st round picks are signed they cannot be traded for 30 days. The rule, which rarely comes into play, was last most famously applied to the trade between the Timberwolves and Cavs when they swapped Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Love. If you recall, Wiggins signed his rookie contract with the Cavs in late July. They then had to wait until late August to trade him.
So, am I saying the Lakers haven’t signed Ingram because they might trade him? No. That is not what I am saying.
But, if I believed in conspiracies I might say that. Especially when I review the list of other rookies Bobby Marks lists above. You will notice another player on that list is Domantas Sabonis whose rights below to…the Thunder. Of course the Thunder have a certain unnamed player, after the departure of Kevin Durant, whose future with the Thunder is murky. This player isn’t on the trade block per se, but the history of how the Thunder handle situations like this has been to trade players who they do not think they can keep long term. (Unless your name is Durant. Then you lose him for nothing. Sorry, OKC.)
What does this have to do with Sabonis? One one hand, nothing. I would imagine that if Westbrook is traded, keeping a player like Sabonis — talented with a good pedigree and cheap for the next 4 years — would be a priority. On the other hand, with him remaining unsigned, he could also be included in any trade without having to deal with the 30 day rule.
You know, just like Brandon Ingram.
That’s a lot of dots I just connected and I had to wear a funny tinfoil hat and weird conspiracy glasses to even connect them. In other words, this is more than likely/almost certainly/pretty much for sure just a random coincidence. After all, the Lakers really like Ingram and the Thunder are still really working on getting Westbrook to accept a raise and extend scenario that boosts his salary this season to the max and then gives him the max for several more years.
But if you believe in conspiracy theories and have nothing better to do than try to read tea leaves…