It’s no secret the Los Angeles Lakers plan to pursue two superstars this offseason. But doing so will mean some current players’ purple-and-gold heads.
If they’re really going to sign two of the likes of LeBron James (who can sign a contract with a new team starting at roughly $36 million in 2018-19 due to years of service), Paul George, or DeMarcus Cousins (both of whom can be had starting at $31 million), some of their roster’s current residents will have to leave Laker Land.
Two of those on the trading block are both 25 and under, and have shown plenty of promise: Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. According to the Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli:
Randle’s situation is worth watching, though. The Lakers would love to trade him if they could, and Jordan Clarkson fits in that category too. Both players know they have been offered in trades by the Lakers, and they’re handling it in different ways.
Clarkson, 25, has been a solid bench scorer and is paid as such—he’ll be owed about $26 million over two seasons following this one. The 23-year-old Randle has frustrated the team with his up-and-down play at power forward. He’ll be a restricted free agent in the offseason, but paying him enough to keep him around would squash that whole highly creative getting-two-superstars plan. So rather than inevitably lose him for nothing, Los Angeles will try to send him away, even if for something like a second-round pick.
Even then, though, the Lakers would have to execute a few more disappearances of money on their ledger to fit even the cheaper, non-LeBron stars mentioned above.
The simplest way to get there: utilizing the league’s stretch provision to spread the money owed in the remaining two years of Luol Deng’s ghastly contract over five years, taking his salary from $18 million in each of the next two seasons to just over $7 million per for the next five. While that’d be an eyesore on the cap sheet through the 2022-23 season, it’d free up enough money to land LeBron and whatever other star they can lure.
To avoid that cap-sheet blemish and still land LeBron and another free-agent star, the Lakers would have to trade Deng, but because of how terrible his deal is, that’d require throwing in some serious sweeteners, which is how the team got out from under Timofey Mozgov’s terrible contract this past summer.