The Los Angeles Lakers may not be in the best position when it comes to the salary cap this offseason. Having Russell Westbrook on the books does not make things easy for the team as they are limited in who they can add in free agency.
That being said, the latest drama in Brooklyn may open the door for the Lakers to trade for Kyrie Irving after all, so things might not be as bleak in Los Angeles next season as we originally thought they were going to be.
Regardless, the Lakers are going to be utilizing most of their salary-cap space on three players whether that be Westbrook or Irving. Los Angeles has also already used it’s Taxpayer MLE on Lonnie Walker IV, meaning that any free agents brought in will have to be on the minimum.
There is at least some relief for the Lakers this offseason as it is the first time in over half a decade that they don’t have to deal with the worst contract in franchise history. With the 2022-23 league year officially beginning, the team no longer has to pay Luol Deng.
Luol Deng’s contract was a nightmare for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA salary cap spiked after the 2015-16 season, which allowed the Golden State Warriors to make an unprecedented move and bring in Kevin Durant. The Lakers also were trying to bring in Durant that offseason and were unable to. In fact, the team was unable to bring in any star that offseason.
Instead, former general manager Mitch Kupchak — who is now the president of basketball operations for the Charlotte Hornets — spent his newfound cap space in the worst way possible. The team signed Luol Deng to a four-year, $72 million contract and Timofey Mozgov to a four-year, $64 million contract.
The Lakers legitimately spent $136 million on two players who at the time were not even good. This was not a case of the Lakers signing all-star players that regressed. Deng was years removed from his all-star nods and Mozgov was never anything more than a depth center.
Los Angeles was eventually able to get off Mozgov’s contract by packaging him with D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez’s expiring contract. The team was not as fortunate with Luol Deng, however, as they did not have the means to do a similar salary-dump trade.
Instead, the Lakers had to take the desperate route and stretch Deng’s contract. The two sides agreed to a buyout and the Lakers had to stretch just under $30 million worth of salary that was remaining.
The result was a cap hit of over $14 million during the 2018-19 season and a $5 million cap hit in the following three seasons. Just think: the Lakers got cheap and did not sign Alex Caruso over a difference of a few million between offers. The team probably would have re-signed him if it was not for Deng.
The Los Angeles Lakers could significantly improve from Talen Horton-Tucker if they pursue proposed trade target Coby White.
It might be a little too late but at least the Lakers can finally wipe clean the last remaining reminder of the dark ages, which was most of the 2010s.