Anthony Davis, one of the best players in the NBA, is getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the glitziest franchises in all of sports, to play alongside perhaps the greatest player of all time in LeBron James … and we’re talking about the fine print of when the deal goes official?
Indeed, it was a wacky weekend in the NBA.
The fine print matters, of course, because as most people are aware by now, it could be the difference in the Lakers having enough remaining cap room to sign a max free agent. In essence, the only way the Lakers will have the $32.5 million in cap space they had before the deal — which would be enough to sign a max free agent with less than 10 years experience — is if the Pelicans agree to wait 30 days from the beginning of free agency to make the deal official. That would be July 30.
By doing that, it would keep Davis’ money off the Lakers’ books long enough to sign a max player with their cap room before taking on Davis’ money, which exceeds the total money L.A. is sending out in the deal even after factoring in the value of this year’s No. 4 overall pick.
If, on the other hand, the deal goes official on the first day (July 6) any free agent can officially sign with any team, which is the plan as of now per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, then the Lakers will absorb Davis’ money into their cap space and thus have less of it to spend on free agents. The number left over will either be just under $28 million if Davis waives his $4 million trade bonus, or just over $23 million if he doesn’t.
Either way, it’s not max money.
This means the only way the Lakers can sign, say, Kemba Walker, or Kyrie Irving, or Jimmy Butler, or any other max free agent with less than 10 years experience, is to either ask them to take less money or beg the Pelicans to push back the trade date, which the Pelicans would have no incentive to do unless, perhaps, the Lakers sweetened the deal even more with whatever future draft pick they can find in the chest of assets they already basically emptied.
It could happen, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume New Orleans doesn’t do L.A. that favor and the Lakers have to forego a third big fish to go bargain hunting instead. It’s not necessarily the worst thing. There’s an argument to be made the Lakers would actually be better off, cap space aside, by signing multiple players who fit specific roles and fill out their depth rather than one big name.
Of course, if given the chance, there’s almost no chance the Lakers would pass on the PR victory lap of signing a max free agent, even if it would be in their best interest, but if they have to, here are some players they could potentially afford and who would make them a really good basketball team alongside LeBron and Davis.
A perfect fit as a knockout shooter with size and a better playmaker than he gets credit for, Bogdanovic could cost the Lakers most of their cap space depending on what his market looks like, but they should be able to get him for less than a max. They would for sure have to give him a long-term deal, and they’d have to weigh that against how much flexibility they want in the summer to come.
Redick has become an absolute championship player. He signed a one-year deal with Philly last season for $12.5 million. The Lakers could offer him something similar, perhaps with two or three years attached to give Redick some stability. He would be a perfect fit alongside LeBron and Davis and a high-level player for at least a few more years.
Ross averaged 15 points per game last year on 38 percent shooting from 3 for the Magic, and can flat-out get buckets. He’s a great pick-and-roll player with the ball in his hands and would free up LeBron to play some off the ball and would be another perimeter player who can create his own offense in the playoffs, when that becomes so crucial. Ross made $10.5 million last year and would be in line for something similar on a multi-year deal. He’s a great fit and probably the most explosive non-max offensive player on this list outside of maybe Bogdanovic.
Another capable shooter and a tough defender who had a career year with the Celtics. Morris can get his own shot which is vital in the playoffs, and he’s a proven player in big moments who played for $5.3 million in Boston last season. He’ll attract more than that this summer, but he’s well within the Lakers’ range and a pretty nice fit, though he does feel like a player that carries the threat of a major regression if his shot doesn’t go quite as consistently, which is definitely a possibility.
Solid point guard. One of the more underrated players in the league. Shot 40 percent from 3 last season. Tough defender. If the Lakers decide to pass on re-signing Rajon Rondo, Collison would be a smart signing that would go a long way, and they could likely get him for around the $10 million he played for last season.
Much like Collison, an underrated point guard who is much more than just a defensive pest — though he is certainly that. Beverley shot just under 40 percent from 3 last season and has really improved that part of his game, which would make him a capable floor spacer when LeBron is handling the ball. Beverley made just over $5 million last year.
There are perfect fits next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and then there’s Danny Green, who would be something more than perfect. Considered an afterthought in the Kawhi Leonard trade, Green was magnificent in helping the Raptors win a championship this season. He shot 45.5 percent from deep. He remains a big-time defender when he needs to be. He has championship pedigree all over him and only made $10 million last year. He’ll be 32 by the start of next season and he really only makes a major difference on a good team where he can just star in his role, so he’s likely not going to get any gigantic offers that would price the Lakers out.
Hood’s first go-round with LeBron didn’t go so well in Cleveland, but he showed out in the playoffs this year with Portland. He’s a shooter and capable one-on-one scorer to relieve pressure from LeBron, and a versatile defender. This is the type of guy that can make the Lakers’ second unit really dangerous as opposed to just being a top-heavy team without depth.
Another Blazers bench player who showed out in 2018-19, Curry shot the 3-ball even better than his MVP brother last season — 45 percent, to be exact. He’s also a better defender and playmaker than you think. Next to LeBron he would space the floor and serve as a secondary playmaker, while being a more relied-upon scorer on the second unit. He’ll get a raise on the $2.7 million he made last season, but even on a multi-year deal he’ll fall well within the Lakers’ range for a player of his role.
Bullock came to the Lakers at the trade deadline last year and didn’t fare great, but the Lakers fell apart after the trade deadline and it wasn’t exactly an honest evaluation. Bullock has the right skillset as a knockdown shooter and switchable defender. Bullock made $2.5 million last year. Another guy the Lakers could look to bring back is Rajon Rondo, but I don’t think he fits well enough to put him on this list.
This could be a reach or a steal, depending on how you look at it. The Lakers would be front-court heavy with Davis, Cousins and LeBron, but LeBron is going to be the main ball-handler and operate mostly on the perimeter. We get another look at the Cousins-Davis pairing that was starting to look really good at the end of their run in New Orleans before Cousins tore his Achilles, which is ironically the reason a reunion is even a possibility. Cousins probably didn’t show enough in his one year with the Warriors to get significant free-agent offers, and perhaps he’s open to another one-year deal in the $10M-12M range to prove himself fully on another championship contender. That would be more than the Warriors can pay him to stay and still leave the Lakers with some room to address the bench.
Ariza was rumored to be a Lakers target last year before he was shipped to Washington. He’s a credible 3-point shooter and still a guard-the-opposing-star level defender with versatile size and championship pedigree, having won a championship with the Lakers in 2008-09 and playing in plenty of high-level playoff games with Houston. He’s a tailor-made veteran for a LeBron James team and he could perhaps be signed in the $10 million range as his value kind of fell off a bit last year.
I love Jeremy Lamb’s game. He’s gotten better every year and was probably Charlotte’s second-best player last season. He can get his own shot and shoot 3s at a more than acceptable clip — just under 35 percent last year. He’s smooth and confident and one of those players you can see taking and making big shots on a good team. Lamb made $7.4 million last season and on a multi-year deal would probably be somewhere around that number again. Whatever his number, it will be affordable for the Lakers.
A stretch four next to Davis at the five has obvious floor-spacing benefits for LeBron. Mirotic is a streaky shooter, but when he’s on, he’s deadly. His defense leaves a lot to be desired. Mirotic made $12.5 million last year but I’d be very surprised if he got anything close to that again.
Still a rabid on-ball defender. Has dipped a little as a shooter, which was never his strength, but still shot 35 percent from deep last season. The Grizzlies have a team option on Bradley’s $12.9 million for this upcoming season, but they aren’t going to be competing this year and likely won’t pick that up. Veteran player. Playoff experienced. Affordable. Not the Lakers’ best option, in my opinion, but an option nonetheless.