The Los Angeles Lakers had an excellent showing in NBA free agency and the best signing that the team made was to retain a fan favorite. Los Angeles was able to re-sign Austin Reaves to a four-year, $53.8 million contract after his breakout sophomore season for the team.
This was right under the maximum amount the Lakers could have offered Reaves and was a bargain compared to what could have happened. NBA teams with cap space had the ability to pay Reaves up to $100 million and while the Lakers had the right to match, it would have made the books very complicated.
No other team offered Reaves a contract because of the fear of the Lakers waiting until the last possible moment to match the deal and zap the other team’s chance of spending their cap space as a result. That is ultimately what kept a team like the San Antonio Spurs away.
According to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype, the Spurs were actually preparing to offer Reaves a four-year, $84 million contract but ultimately decided against it for that very reason. Lakers fans should be grateful as it would have had big implications on the team’s future flexibility.
How the Spurs’ rumored offer for Austin Reaves would have impacted the Lakers:
Since the Spurs were under the salary cap, the Gilbert Arenas Provision allowed the team to backload Reaves’ contract but take the average annual salary as his yearly cap hit. Therefore, even though Reaves would have made less in his first two years, his cap hit would have been $21 million every season.
It is much easier to plan and handle a flat cap hit like that compared to what the Lakers would have had to do. Since LA was not under the cap, the team would have had to take Reaves’ yearly cap hit every single year.
The first two years would not have been bad. Reaves would have made the full MLE value in his first season ($12.4 million) followed by a 5% raise the following season ($13.025 million). That would have only accounted for $25,430,250 of his $84 million contract, though.
Los Angeles would have owed Reaves $58,569,750 in the final two years of the deal. If the team would have just averaged that out over two years it would have resulted in a cap hit of $29.28 million in each year.
That is a huge cap hit and is far larger than the Reaves’ actual cap hits of $13.93 and $14.89 million in his final two years. It would have made it nearly impossible to bring in the next superstar once LeBron James leaves.
Thankfully, the Lakers’ savvy trick of telling teams they would match no matter what and take the most time possible to do so ended up scaring the Spurs away. Then again, the Spurs didn’t sign any external free agents anyway, so the team could have afforded to play this game simply to make the Lakers pay more.