UPDATE (Sept. 1, 10:55 a.m. PT): The Los Angeles Lakers officially announced they have waived Luol Deng.
Prior to the 2016-17 NBA season, the league’s salary cap increased significantly following a new television deal. As a result, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to four-year deals worth $136 million combined in free agency.
As their production clearly did not match up to their contracts and the Lakers shifted their focus to developing the young core, the first major move by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka was trading Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets.
Unlike Mozgov, the Lakers have been unable to find a trade partner for Deng unless they were willing to include another prospect and/or draft picks.
However, heading into the 2018-19 season, the Lakers and Deng are finalizing a buyout for the remaining two-years, $36.8 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Sources: The Los Angeles Lakers and forward Luol Deng are finalizing a contract buyout as part of waive-and-stretch provision.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 1, 2018
By stretching Deng, it will open up an additional $12.5 million in cap space and the Lakers will be armed with another max-contract slot of $37.4 million in free agency. While the initial plan was to sign LeBron James and Paul George this summer, Johnson and Pelinka essentially broke up the second max-contract slot to improve the team’s depth.
After Deng only appeared in 57 games over the last two seasons, he remained professional but expressed his frustration recently at the NBA Africa Game. With the 33-year-old now having an opportunity to play elsewhere, the Lakers can focus on ending their five-year playoff drought and 2019 free agency.