With the Los Angeles Lakers looking to sign two superstar free agents in a 2018 class headlined by LeBron James and Paul George, the team still has work to do to free up enough cap space to make their dreams a reality.
The Lakers owe $36.8 million to Luol Deng and $25.9 million to Jordan Clarkson over the next two seasons. And as a restricted free agent, Julius Randle has cap hold of around $12.5 million that will remain on the Lakers’ books until he’s either signed to a new contract or his rights are renounced.
L.A. will probably have to move on from two of those three if they want the room to sign two players to max contracts. And while the one they’d probably be happiest to ship out would be Deng and his albatross contract, that just might not be possible.
The Lakers have been working to find a new home for Deng since he asked out early in the season, but Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the team is no longer optimistic it can do so, via ESPN Full Court Press:
“You talk to teams around the league, no one is bailing the Lakers out with Deng’s contract. They’re not. Teams have asked for multiple first-round picks to take that money. They’ve asked for Brandon Ingram. They’ll ask for Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers, I’m told, have essentially given up the idea that they can trade Deng, that there’s anything they can attach to his contract.”
Some might say it’s unreasonable for teams to ask for those things, but the Lakers did this to themselves in a way. The did attach a former No. 2 pick in order to get out from under a bad deal when they exiled D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets in order to rid themselves of Timofey Mozgov.
Thus, the Lakers showed they were more than willing to move on from young talent if it helped them create cap space. No matter how much the team espouses the benefits of Brook Lopez’s game.
With Deng out of the rotation and unlikely to play another game for the Lakers, it’s unlikely that the team could resuscitate Deng’s trade value in any way.
Given that that’s the case, the Lakers optimism they can move arguably the worst contract in the NBA is understandable. There also probably isn’t anything they can do about it.