The biggest story over the last few days for the Los Angeles Lakers is that they were able to part ways with Luol Deng via an agreement on a buyout and stretch provision. The saga began in 2016 when Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak signed Deng to a four-year, $72 million contract.
The contract would quickly be known as one of the NBA’s worst, and it ultimately required the Lakers to pay a player who essentially never saw time on the court $18 million per year. Deng appeared in the opener last season, then never played again.
It was reported Deng, in agreeing to a buyout, forfeited $7.5 million of his remaining salary. However, the final value of the terms to Deng’s buyout were slightly lower than that, via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Final figure on Luol Deng buyout reduction with Lakers: $7.3M. Lakers still have $38M in 2019 salary cap space.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 4, 2018
The difference shouldn’t seem like a big deal. However, it does slightly change how the Lakers can approach 2019 NBA free agency. Instead of $38.2 million, the Lakers will now have a flat $38 million in salary cap space.
That leaves them just shy of the $38.2 million needed to offer a max contract Kevin Durant. Due to Durant reaching his 10th year of service in the NBA, his max contract spikes from $35.5 million to $38.2, putting the Lakers just out of reach — for the time being.
It certainly isn’t a difference that Durant perhaps would be open to forfeiting, or one that the Lakers couldn’t erase with other transactions.
In addition to Durant, the team could use the max-contract slot to pursue the likes of Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson, among others. Though, Thompson remains focused on the Golden State Warriors and Butler has been rumored to want to team up with Kyrie Irving.
Whatever path they choose, the Lakers will have their fair share of salary cap space heading into 2019, in addition to have LeBron James and the entirety of their young core intact.