One of the defining moments of the Los Angeles Lakers rebuild from 2013-18 was the hyper-inflated contracts handed out to Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng in the summer of 2016.
The NBA’s salary cap spiked after a new TV deal, and without any interested stars, the Lakers had to give their money to anyone who wanted it. This led to signing Mozgov a four-year, $64 million deal and Deng a four-year, $72 million contract, both of which were almost immediately seen as massive mistakes.
After one year of the Mozgov deal, L.A. was able to remove his salary off the books entirely by trading him — along with D’Angelo Russell — to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and a first-round pick that later became Kyle Kuzma.
However, the Lakers were never able to find a suitor for Deng, finally opting to use the waive and stretch provision. This meant the Lakers would be paying Deng $5.5 million per year through 2022.
Now, with Deng retired, the Lakers are hoping to remove the final year of the provision, claiming a career-ending injury, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Sources: The Lakers have requested a career-ending injury application to have Luol Deng’s salary removed from team books. Deng agreed to buyout with Lakers in 2018, retired last October and is owed salary through 2022.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 20, 2020
The Orlando Magic made an identical request with Mozgov in October 2019, which was approved. That was at a time when Mogov had already returned to Russia, where he continued to play professionally.
Deng’s retirement at the age of 34 was not specifically due to injury, but the Lakers may still be able to argue that case. If they are able to get his contract off the books, it would free up about $5 million in cap space, which could come in handy for a number of reasons.
The Lakers may be able to use this cap space to re-sign a current free agent without using any of their mid-level exception, freeing that up to be used on an incoming free agent. They could also use it to take on a bigger contract in a larger trade.
Executives believe LeBron James will influence Lakers to trade for Chris Paul
With an extra $5 million potentially in hand, the Lakers may go after one of the NBA’s most expensive players in Chris Paul. With the Oklahoma City Thunder possibly entering into a rebuild, they may want Paul’s massive contract off the books.
The Lakers have long been linked with Paul, but the salary figures seemed too convoluted to overcome.
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