The front office duo of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have done a magnificent job assembling a competitive roster heading into the 2017-18 season. At the same time, they have also satisfied their initial desires by sticking to their plan for the 2018 free agency period.
Los Angeles was able to acquire All-Star center Brook Lopez and signed shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, both on one-year deals. The underlying plan involves keeping as much cap space as possible for the 2018 free agency period, in order to have a chance to sign two max contract players.
In order to do this, the Lakers may also have to consider parting ways with another lucrative contract on the books. While the long-term contracts of Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson were done by the previous regime, they still have implications going forward. The current Lakers front office brass feels confident they can part ways with Clarkson if deemed necessary, in order to improve their chances of landing a superstar, via Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
One person within the organization who isn’t permitted to speak publicly on the subject told Bleacher Report the team is confident it can move Clarkson if needed to open space.
Clarkson signed a four-year, $50 million deal just before the 2016-17 season, with all $50 million being guaranteed. While the value of Clarkson’s contract isn’t that great, it could still be the crucial piece necessary to improve their chances.
The four-year, $72 million contract for Deng is another story, with a much more difficult strategy involved. With an average salary of $18 million per year and all $72 million fully guaranteed, it seems more likely the Lakers can only depart with Deng if involved in a trade the way Timofey Mozgov was.
If the Lakers were to trade Clarkson before the 2018 free agency, they would free up a total of $59 million in cap space. Although that wouldn’t be enough to land both Paul George and LeBron James, it serves as a baby step towards a resolution.