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Skip Playoff Hopes, Lakers Will Be Sellers This Season

As much as it’s fun to think about the Lakers fighting it out for the privilege of getting swept in the first round of the playoffs next April, it isn’t going to happen. This team has other plans and will be sellers at every opportunity up until the NBA trade deadline according to Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler.

The LA Lakers are going to be sellers. As much as the team wants to talk about a playoff berth this season, there is a bigger picture plan that is going to require the Lakers to dump salary.

they almost have to sell off pieces in season, if they want any shot at the two max salary slots they would need to have to pursue the free agent targets (LeBron James and Paul George) they have been linked to.

The quick math says the Lakers have to dump all but $30.9 million in cap dollars committed.

The good news in Lakerland is Brook Lopez ($22.6 million), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($17.7 million), and Corey Brewer ($7.6 million) are all on expiring deals and the Lakers only have $41.3 million guaranteed for next season.

However, that figure ignores the team options for Brandon Ingram ($5.8 million) and Larry Nance Jr. ($2.8 million) that will be picked up and the inexpensive non-guaranteed deals of Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant that would have to be replaced at about the same cost of about $3.5 million in total. Then there’s the qualifying offers for Julius Randle ($5.6 million), Vander Blue ($1.8 million) and Stephen Zimmerman ($1.7 million).

It’s never as easy to drive down payroll as it seems even with the pretty decent planning executed by the Lakers so far this summer.

As Kyler points out, one or both of Deng and/or Clarkson will need to go and getting any team to take on the three-years and $54 million still owed to Deng is going to take a lot of sweetener.

The 32-year-old Deng averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. It’s hard to imagine even tossing in Randle would be enough to get some adventurous GM to take on that bloated contract without sending back something/someone the Lakers don’t want.

The 24-year-old Clarkson should be easier to move, but it will still be a challenge to do a deal with no money beyond this season coming back and dumping his salary alone won’t get the Lakers two open max salary slots next July.

There will be a lot of NBA teams looking to move salary this season with 10 franchises on the cusp or deep into Luxury Tax territory and maybe only four of those teams with any real or imagined hope of making it to the NBA Finals.

Then there’s the elephants in the room sucking up all the air until something happens with Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving as just about every GM sees those pending possible moves as an opportunity to either take on or dump salary and grab an asset for themselves.

It will take patience to improve on the Lakers salary cap picture for next July, but it’s hard to argue with Kyler’s conclusion. The Lakers are a lot more interested in dumping salary than making the playoffs this year.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson