With the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Los Angeles Lakers will explore all avenues in upgrading their roster for both the short-term and long-term. Whether that’s absorbing expiring contracts in exchange for draft picks, or even acquiring a player with an eye on the future.
The front office has made it clear that it wants financial flexibility for the upcoming star-studded free agent class that will include the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George and LeBron James.
In order for the Lakers to achieve their goal of clearing enough space for the possibility of signing two maximum-salary players this summer, they must part ways with two of Deng, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle.
Ideally, one of those players moved would be Deng, who clearly doesn’t factor into the team’s long-term plans going forward. As the Lakers continue to exhaust all options in regards to the 32-year-old, rival teams are reportedly seeking back Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma in return, according to Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group:
In preliminary trade talks, teams have only shown a willingness to absorb the $36 million remaining on Deng’s deal if Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Lonzo Ball is included in the deal.
Deng, now in the second year of a four-year contract signed in 2016, is still owed roughly $36 million over the next two seasons. Given his age and lack of production, it will be a tough sell for the Lakers to convince a team to take on the majority of his remaining salary without sweetening the pot by including an intriguing asset or future draft pick.
The Lakers have recognized that their chances of dealing Deng are abysmal at best, and have reportedly “given up” on the prospect of trading him.
Deng has appeared in just one game this season, filling in for the suspended Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Opening Night. The most likely scenario, assuming a trade is off the table, is Los Angeles stretching the veteran’s contract at the end of the season.