The Los Angeles Lakers have made their plans for this summer clear in their actions throughout the last year: To free up the most salary cap space possible and have the necessary flexibility to trade for a star or sign maximum-salaried NBA free agents.
But even the best-laid plans are never a guarantee, and the team has hedged in recent months, stating that they don’t have to sign any huge names this summer. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have pointed to preserving cap space for 2019 free agency.
If the Lakers do still want to recruit stars like LeBron James and/or Paul George this summer, however, they’ll still likely have the same amount of cap space the league has been projecting since the beginning of the season, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
In a memo to teams, the NBA has NOT changed it's preseason salary cap projection, it remains at $101 mil for 2018-19 and 108 mil for 2019-20. Tax at $123 mil and $131 mil, respectively. Typically, there's variance in the pre/post projection but not this year
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) April 16, 2018
There is still the possibility that the cap could change again if playoff revenue exceeds the league’s expectations, but it’s unlikely to change significantly.
If nothing changes, the Lakers can free up over $61 million in cap space if they renounce all the cap holds associated with their players who are free agents, which would be the most cap space in the league according to Spotrac.
Getting to that number would be slightly painful in that it would require the team to jettison Julius Randle, who has a cap hold of around $12 million for this summer. Although, even with him on the books (and not re-signed to a new contract or having signed an offer sheet with another team in restricted free agency), the Lakers would still have the most cap room in the league, although not quite enough to sign two free agents to the 35-percent max.
The Lakers’ fortunes in free agency will depend on a lot more than how much the salary cap is, but they at least appear to have set themselves up with the most flexibility possible in a buyer’s market this summer.