The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the more active teams in the NBA since installing Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations and Rob Pelinka as general manager. Together, they have aggressively remade the roster as they hope to bring the team back to the playoffs.
One of the front office’s biggest moves took place at this season’s trade deadline when the Lakers sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
It was a move that reshaped the roster on the fly and set up the Lakers for the future. For the Cavs, they added a pair of young players who could add a bit more firepower around LeBron James.
According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, however, the Cavalierss were more interested in Nance than Clarkson:
“They made the trade for Nance. I mean, other than the George Hill thing, which was a separate deal, they made the other trade for Nance.”
While the Lakers were certainly interested in seeing what Thomas and Frye could provide, and a first-round pick is always a welcome addition, the main selling point of the deal from their perspective was freeing up cap space.
While Nance’s deal pays him just $2.3 million next season, Clarkson is on the books for almost $26 million over the next two years.
By shedding Clarkson’s contract, the Lakers put themselves a step closer to being able to offer a pair of max contracts to free agents this summer, when players such as LeBron James and Paul George will be on the market.
Even if the team is unable to land a superstar in free agency, that much cap room can be used in a variety of ways. From absorbing salary in a trade to making an oversized one-year offer to a player so that the team’s cap will be clear in the summer of 2019.
Clarkson, to be sure, can help a team, but just as the Lakers were motivated to clear his salary, the Cavs likewise needed Nance as an incentive to absorb his deal.
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