Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers uncharacteristically opened their check book to sign veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to massive four-year contracts. In the opening days of free agency, a huge chunk of the precious cap space that the Lakers had been hoarding for a superstar was gone.
Deng and Mozgov were both underwhelming last season, though they did provide valuable veteran leadership on a young team. When Los Angeles signed them, the thought was that they would be able to take players like Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, D’Angelo Russell, and the rest under their wing and give them guidance.
However, now that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are in charge, the Lakers could certainly use the cap space that Deng and Mozgov’s contracts take up to pursue major free agents. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, at least one rival executive believes that it would cost the Lakers a major asset to move a contract like Deng’s:
An executive with another team suggested a lottery pick to me as a viable option for Lakers, should they choose https://t.co/D3uRQzY5Rw
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 14, 2017
With rumors suggesting that the Lakers will be serious contenders for Indiana Pacers forward Paul George when he hits free agency next summer, the team may be put into a situation where they need a way to free up some cap room, and moving one or both of Deng and Mozgov’s deals would be beneficial.
However, a lottery pick is a hefty price to pay to move a contract, so Los Angeles would almost certainly need to wait at least one more season before attempting to trade either Deng or Mozgov, as that would lower the financial commitment by the team absorbing their deals. This could push someone else onto the trade block, like perhaps Jordan Clarkson.
If they want to have space to sign George or someone else at his level next summer, the Lakers will need to make some tough choices within the next year.