That’s the sort of star-studded state of affairs of which Lakers followers have dreamed since final making the playoffs 5 years in the past, and which the remainder of the NBA has feared. While it is a lengthy shot, such a partnership is feasible if it is what the gamers concerned really need.
Let’s run via the probabilities — and the challenges.
How the Lakers may make it work financially
The Lakers signing George and James, each of whom can turn into unrestricted free brokers if they refuse 2018-19 participant choices, is simple sufficient. They can create ample cap room merely by waiving ahead Luol Deng and stretching his contract, then renouncing the rights to their free brokers.
Adding Leonard to the combo makes the mathematics trickier — even earlier than we account for the truth that he is nonetheless beneath contract to the San Antonio Spurs, who must log out on a commerce. (More on that in a bit.)
Though Leonard is making considerably lower than the present max wage at $20.1 million for 2018-19, combining his wage with max ones for LeBron (an estimated $35.Four million) and George (estimated $30.Three million as a result of he is two years shy of the expertise mandatory for the most important max bracket for gamers with 10-plus years within the league) places the Lakers over $85 million in wage with out contemplating some other gamers or the remaining quantity of Deng’s stretched wage.
That tight math makes all of it however crucial the Lakers ship Deng to San Antonio in a Leonard commerce earlier than signing George and James. How would possibly that work?
Kawhi should ask for commerce to L.A.
Timing is the largest problem to the Lakers pulling off an enormous three this summer time. Any commerce they make for a high-paid veteran like Leonard assuredly must be carried out earlier than they signal free brokers, as a result of in any other case they’re going to have already got waived Deng and be unable to incorporate him as matching wage in a commerce.
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday, the Spurs and Leonard plan to satisfy sooner moderately than later to debate his future in San Antonio and a attainable super-maximum designated veteran extension value an estimated $219 million. If that provide does not come, or if Leonard needs out anyway, he’d have to tell the Spurs shortly that they need to commerce him — and, on this state of affairs, that he’d be prepared to re-sign solely with the Lakers, limiting his worth to different groups.
Presumably, a Lakers package deal can be constructed round one of many final two No. 2 general picks — both Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram. Just how practical a Leonard commerce is relies upon largely on how San Antonio values these two growing prospects. From a monetary perspective, together with Ball provides the Lakers barely extra flexibility as a result of he’ll depend $7.5 million towards the cap subsequent season as in comparison with Ingram’s $5.eight million.
Sending again Ball or Ingram alone in all probability would not get a deal carried out with the Spurs. Since Deng have to be included on this model of a deal, the Lakers are going to want so as to add extra worth. That may imply parting with All-Rookie first-team choose Kyle Kuzma, whose capacity to create photographs is much less beneficial on a workforce with three superstars.
Let’s say the Spurs are prepared to do Ball, Deng and Kuzma for Leonard, pivoting to a youthful roster constructed across the two second-year gamers plus level guard Dejounte Murray. As I outlined in our roundup of Leonard trade possibilities, the 2 groups may make that commerce now by together with the Orlando Magic (or one other workforce with cap house or a commerce exception of ample measurement) to tackle Joffrey Lauvergne‘s wage for matching functions.
Who would the Lakers have across the huge three?
Assuming the cap is available in as projected at $101 million and each James and George signal for the total max, making the commerce outlined right here for Leonard would depart the Lakers with simply six gamers beneath contract: their new huge three, Ingram, Three-and-D wing Josh Hart and this 12 months’s first-round choose by way of the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 25 general). The Lakers even have the 47th general choose within the second spherical.
So for sure, the Lakers would have a whole lot of work to do filling out their roster and solely the room midlevel exception (projected at $Four.Four million) to supply free brokers greater than the veteran’s minimal. The excellent news is their superstars would give them unimaginable flexibility.
I would envision the Lakers beginning Ingram at level guard — a job he crammed at instances final season when Ball was injured — and having him share playmaking tasks with the newcomers. That would produce a lineup with the 6-foot-7 Leonard as its shortest participant, providing great defensive flexibility and the flexibility to change practically any display. While all 4 gamers would maybe be thought-about small forwards in a vacuum, all have the flexibility to defend any place 1-Four.
The Lakers would desire a heart able to becoming in with a switching protection, which could make them pursue Nerlens Noel with the room midlevel. Noel, a shopper of the company run by LeBron affiliate Rich Paul (Klutch Sports Group), may not get a lot bigger affords than $Four.Four million this summer time and the Lakers have proven curiosity up to now. Wojnarowski reported final winter that they’d preliminary discussions with the Dallas Mavericks on swapping Julius Randle — whose rights the Lakers must forfeit to clear cap house — for Noel.
To fill out the bench, the Lakers can be counting on veterans taking reductions to play in L.A. and have an opportunity to contend. This is the summer time to try this, nevertheless, with restricted cap house out there across the league. The Lakers would additionally profit from the flexibility to maintain not less than one All-Star on the courtroom always, much like what the Warriors have carried out after including Kevin Durant.
This hypothetical changing into actuality is contingent on the gamers concerned — and the Spurs. George and James are free to signal anyplace and Leonard could choose to attend out the potential of the tremendous max in San Antonio than attempt to return to Southern California. And even when Leonard asks out and tries to drive his strategy to L.A., the Spurs may at all times name his bluff and maintain him or commerce him to a different workforce prepared to gamble on re-signing Leonard, because the Oklahoma City Thunder did buying and selling for George a 12 months in the past.
Still, there’s a practical path to the Lakers creating an enormous three this summer time.