November 16, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Former pro basketball player "Julius Dr. J" Irving sits next to Los Angeles Lakers Mitch Kupchak during the ceremony unveiling the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

What the Lakers can’t do in Free Agency this offseason

Dec. 11, 2011; El Segundo, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak watches media day from an window on the second floor at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers’ roster desperately needs to get younger, quicker and more athletic; those particular attributes are not that hard to find. You can find numerous players that fit the bill in the NBA developmental league for instance.

Here is the caveat; that youth, quickness and athleticism also needs to be packaged in a player with an NBA type body and NBA level skill set. Now that is very hard to find, and when you do find it, it is going to cost you big time.

Therein lies the dilemma for the Los Angeles Lakers, they know exactly what they need, but with the restrictions of the new collective bargaining agreement, don’t have the means to cover the cost of acquiring the needed talent.

While the players fought tooth and nail during negotiations of the last CBA to prevent placing too many restrictions on salaries, in the end, they failed. The salary restrictions are stringent and penalties for those teams that surpass the set limits are exorbitant.

A team like the Lakers that historically would do anything necessary to field a winner are the ones paying the price, figuratively and literally.

The Lakers being one of the NBA teams that have surpassed the luxury tax with their team payroll will have their hands tied this coming free agent season. Let us take a look at what the Lakers will NOT be able to do:

Lakers DO NOT have the mid level (5million) exception.

Apr 15, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard J.J. Redick (5) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Denver won 112-111. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In NBA terms, 5 million dollars isn’t much, but it can get you a very important piece to form a championship contending team. In the past, the Lakers have used the mid level exception to acquire players like Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher who were both instrumental in the Lakers last two championships.

Unfortunately, the Lakers won’t even have the 5 million to offer free agents because the Lakers are over the luxury tax limit by more than 4 million, which the CBA calls the “apron”.  Instead, the Lakers will have a smaller “tax paying team” exception of 3.18 million that they can offer for a maximum of 3 years, which is a shorter term than the “non-tax paying” exception that can be offered for 4 years.

The Lakers will be able to offer the 3.18 million dollar exception to 1 player or split it up between 2.

Free agents such as JJ Redick, Tony Allen, Kyle Korver, OJ Mayo (player option), Jose Calderon, DJ Augustin are all expected to command at least the 5 million exception in free agency; therefore, all of them are likely off the table for the Lakers this offseason.

 

Lakers DO NOT have the bi-annual (2 million) exception.

Another penalty that tax paying teams like the Lakers will have to endure is not having another exception called the bi-annual exception that this coming season will be set at 2 million dollars that can be offered for a maximum contract term of 2 years.

While 2 million is not a lot of money by NBA standards, it is more the minimum salary contracts that the Lakers will only be able to use. Other than the aforementioned 3 million dollar tax paying exception, the Lakers will be able to offer as many minimum contracts to  free agents as they please. The minimum contract scale depends on years of service. An undrafted rookie would have a minimum salary set at $490k per year and at the other end of the scale, a veteran with 10 or more years of NBA experience has a minimum set at 1.39 million per year.

Lakers CANNOT receive an unrestricted free agent via a sign and trade.

Apr 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) drives to the basket against the Indiana Pacers in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

In the past, if an unrestricted free agent wanted to go to a team of his choosing but that team didn’t have the salary cap space to sign him to a lucrative free agent deal, that player could resign with his existing team, then be traded to that team for players that come close to matching salaries. That isn’t the case anymore if that team is over the “apron” like the Lakers.

Big name players that are unrestricted free agents this off-season are completely off the table for the Los Angeles Lakers. Chris Paul, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Paul Millsap would all look good in purple and gold, but unless they take a massive pay cut by accepting the 3 million dollar exception, they won’t be wearing Lakers colors this coming season.

The free agent shopping season starts July 1st, unfortunately for the Lakers, they’ll be doing more window shopping with maxed out credit cards than anything else. The list of players that are potentially available for what the Lakers have to offer is uninspiring and filled with unknowns. Combine that with the fact that the Lakers again do not have a first round draft pick, they will have an almost impossible time improving the roster this coming season. Outside of a trade, it is very likely that you’ll see very few changes to the personnel this coming season.

You can reach me regarding this article, to chat about the Lakers , or if you need someone to help you move, on my twitter handle, @fullcourtfern.

What do you think of the new CBA rules?

What free agents do you think the Lakers should pursue that are still available despite the limitations?

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