A ton of critics are speculating that the Lakers will need to acquire a younger, more athletic point guard via trade. Deron Williams is the big name that is being urged for general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jerry Buss to acquire. This would indeed be more than pleasing to Laker fans as Williams’ star power and great abilities at the point guard position would not only solve the current position problems but also extend future success for the team.
However, there is a reality that the Lakers most likely cannot afford to pay the high-dollar salary that an acquisition of Deron Williams would acquire. The Lakers are currently operating with an over-$87 million salary. Since Williams is currently receiving a yearly salary of over $16 million, the Lakers would have to offer up core players to stabilize the consumption of a high priced salary like this without facing severe penalties from the new collective barraging agreement.
Under the new CBA, “Teams pay $1 for every $1 their salary is above the luxury-tax threshold in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Starting in 2012-13, teams pay an incremental tax that increases with every $5 million above the tax threshold ($1.50, $1.75, $2.50, $3.25, etc.). Teams that are repeat offenders (paying tax at least four out of the past five seasons) have a tax that is higher still — $1 more at each increment ($2.50, $2.75, $3.50, $4.25, etc.).”*
“When the league was unable to negotiate a hard cap, they settled for the next best thing — a more punitive luxury tax that will make teams think twice before committing to a higher payroll. For example, the Lakers’ tax bill in 2011 (when the tax was dollar-for-dollar) was about $19.9 million. Under the new system, being that far over the tax line would cost them $44.68 million. If they were a repeat offender (paying tax at least four of the previous five years) they would owe $64.58 million!”*
With the financial restrictions facing the Lakers in acquiring a star point guard with a high price tag, let’s discuss some possibilities that are more realistic for the organization. If the Lakers were still to acquire a point guard this season, but one who costs dramatically less, a suitable opportunity would be to go after restricted free agent from Phoenix, Aaron Brooks.
Brooks signed with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) while the NBA was locked out. Besides signing an agreement with the Chinese Basketball Association worth $2 million dollars, Brooks also agreed to a contract that would tie him to the CBA until March of this year. While it is likely the struggling Suns will hold onto the rights to Brooks for the remainder of the season to back up Steve Nash, if Brooks does not sign an extension, the Lakers could easily pick him up this summer. This would be a more cost effective solution for the Lakers.
Brooks is under contract with the Suns for $2.9 million per year. If you compare his yearly earnings to Luke Walton, who is receiving $5.8 million this year, you can see how the Lakers need to make some financial changes that make sense.
However, picking up another point guard without letting go of a point guard could create some problems. If that happens, the Lakers would have four point guards fighting for minutes. The aging Fisher has been struggling on both ends of the court, but enough can’t be said about what he brings to the team. Fisher has a player option for next season, which I’m sure he won’t exercise. In fact, if he makes any changes it will be to retire.
With a better and more confident Steve Blake now basically equally sharing the minutes played with Derek Fisher, the question facing the Lakers is “is that enough?”
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