Because of contracts doled out under the previous regime, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have financial flexibility as 2018 NBA free agency loomed. However, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka quickly began to bring about change.
They unloaded Timofey Mozgov’s bloated contract by attaching D’Angelo Russell to him in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Then, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. were sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline this past season.
That helped the Lakers clear the necessary salary cap space that ultimately would be used to sign LeBron James to a four-year contract. It also left Luol Deng as the final reminder of ill-fated signings by Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers resolved that matter by coming to terms on a buyout with Deng and using the stretch provision to waive him.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, Deng forfeited more than $7 million in salary, which in turn has put the Lakers in position to sign a max-contract free agent in 2019:
ESPN reporting with @ramonashelburne: In buyout with Lakers, Luol Deng walked away from $7.5M on the $36.8M left on his contract. With waive and stretch provision, Lakers have cleared $38M in salary cap space in 2019 free agency.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 1, 2018
Per CBA guidelines, Deng’s salary for this season is fully guaranteed and not included as part of the stretch provision. Therefore, the Deng’s remaining salary in the buyout will count against the Lakers’ salary cap for only through the 2021-22 season.
More importantly for Los Angeles, they can continue to map out their pursuits of a max-level free agent next summer, when the likes of Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson may be among those available.