Jun 1, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) battles for position with Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half in game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 91-77. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers 2014 Cap Flexibility has been Greatly Exaggerated

4 time MVP Lebron James

2 time NBA champion Dwayne Wade

Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki

Burgeoning star Paul George

Scorer extraordinaire Carmelo Anthony

All potentially unrestricted or restricted free agents and all up for grabs for the Los Angeles Lakers come the off-season of 2014. Right?

Not exactly.

Hate to be the one to rain down on the reported free agent buffet that the Lakers are supposed to feast on in 2014 with their seemingly unlimited amount of cap space; but, it is really more like some thing you pull out of a lean cuisine box than a buffet.

While technically, yes, the Lakers can potentially have quite a bit of cap space to sign a couple of max contracts, it is unlikely that it will work out that way by the time we get to that much anticipated 2014 off-season.

We have all heard the reports of the Lakers only having Steve Nash’s 9.7 million dollar contract on the books for 2014. The NBA sets the salary cap figure right around the start of each season and is anticipated to be around 60 million for this coming 2013-2014 season. We will estimate that the salary cap will be at 60 million for 2014 to have a nice round figure.

  • That means that the Lakers have 50.3 million dollars to play with in the free agent market of 2014, right?

 

Well, what about Dwight Howard?

The Lakers are going to put on the full court press to resign Howard this coming off-season and will be offered a full max contract. It is possible that Howard leaves the Lakers but we all expect him to resign. Dwight will be in his 2nd year of his max contract in 2014 and will be getting paid roughly $22 million in that 2nd year.

  • The Lakers’ team salary figure is now at 31.7, which leaves 28.3 million available to spend.

 

What about the Lakers current free agents such as Earl Clark, Antawn Jamision, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Devin Ebanks?  

All of these players are going to ask for more than 1 year contracts which would put them on the books for that 2014 season. However, out of all those players, only Earl Clark would warrant a contract for more than 1 season. Everybody else either doesn’t return this coming season or is offered no more than 1 year. Considering Clark already stated he’d take less to stay, we’ll estimate his contract for 2014 at 3 million.

  • Lakers team salary is now 34.7, leaving 25.3 million in available cap space.

 

What about the free agent(s) they sign this year?

The Lakers are surely going to sign a free agent this season to help in areas such as overall team speed, improve their perimeter defense and become more proficient in shooting from the outside to help provide space for the bigs down low. In order to get a player that will have any impact, they’ll have to offer their full 3 million dollar exception and for more than 1 year.

  • That will add another 3 million bringing their salary total to 37.7 million, leaving 22.3 million in cap space.

 

The dreaded and conveniently ignored Cap Holds

There is a thing in the CBA called a cap hold that will tie up a teams’ salary cap space in order to account for their unsigned free agents, first round draft picks, available exceptions and open roster spots that need to be filled to meet the minimum number of 12 as required by the NBA. The cap hold will take up the available cap space until the teams free agents either sign with another team, sign with their existing team with the their new terms or the team renounces their rights.

Without getting further into the intricacy of a cap hold, it is what will take up the remaining 23.3 million in available cap space of the Lakers for that 2014 free agent season unless the Lakers make a few administrative decisions to open up that space.

All of the guys that are coming off the books after this coming season, such as Steve Blake, Chris Duhon and anybody not already mentioned will have a cap hold, but as previously explained, can be wiped out by renouncing their rights, which the Lakers will most certainly do except for a few players that will take some serious pondering before deciding to part ways.

 

What to do with Kobe, Pau and Jordan Hill? 

There are some players that the Lakers might not renounce because of the value, such as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. What do the Lakers do about these guys? Do they let them walk and renounce their rights as well so that they can keep their 23.3 million in cap space for at least 1 big name free agent? If they do, they can resign these players but they’ll have to do it under a “hard” cap which means they will not be able to exceed the salary cap number so they’ll have to fit their salaries along with whomever they pursue in free agency.

My best guess here is that they’ll let Gasol and Hill walk, and resign Kobe for a discounted price of say 10 million per year.

  • That leaves the available cap space of 12.3 million.

 

What about the Lakers 2014 1st round pick? 

Lakers have a 1st round draft pick in 2014 and that will place a cap hold of about 1 million.

  • Account for their 1st round pick, we’ll drop the available cap space to 11.3 million.

 

What about the remaining open roster spots and contract exceptions? 

That leaves a roster of Bryant, Clark, Nash, Howard, free agent from 2013 and unnamed 1st round draft pick of 2014. That leaves the Lakers 6 players short of a 12 man roster, meaning they have a cap hold of 6 minimum contracts that would total slightly more than 3 million.

The cap holds for the Lakers available contract exceptions, such as the mid level and bi-annual can be renounced as well so we won’t account for them here.

  • That leaves the Lakers available cap space for the 2014 free agent season to underwhelming 8.3 million dollars. 

 

8.3 million!

That’s not enough to sign a Lebron James or Paul George. I am not even sure that’s enough money to entice Kyle Lowry.

The reality of the Lakers cap situation is somber news for Lakers fans I’m sure. Especially with all of the reports from every news source imaginable referencing the free agent bonanza that was approaching for the Lakers. I’m guilty of the same as well.

When you hear reports of the mountainous cap space that the Lakers have in 2014 you can take it with a grain of salt. The reports aren’t necessarily inaccurate; they’re just misleading and unrealistic. Sure the Lakers can have 50 million in cap space to sign a couple of superstar free agents to max contracts, but they’d have to wipe out their entire roster short of Steve Nash to do it. Looking at the list of free agents that are even going to be realistically available in 2014, I don’t see someone being worth all that trouble.

 

You can reach me at the my Twitter handle, @fullcourtfern, to discuss this article, anything Lakers or NBA related, or if  you want to invite me to go grab a beer somewhere in L.A. You’re paying of course. 

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