The Los Angeles Lakers are currently doing salary cap gymnastics, jumping through hoops as they try to land as many superstars as possible.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Lakers are “reaching out across the league” about acquiring an extra first-round pick. Lowe reported that Los Angeles would be willing to take on wanted future salary in such a deal. It would likely be used only to help land Kawhi Leonard in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs.
One possible team interested in this type of trade includes the Denver Nuggets. It would be a move similar to when the Brooklyn Nets traded for DeMarre Carroll from the Toronto Raptors last year, taking on an otherwise unwanted asset because there’s a first-rounder attached.
Tim Bontemps provided more details on who those players could include (via Washington Post):
“Multiple sources said the Lakers and Denver Nuggets are discussing a potential deal that would see Los Angeles take back bad money for a draft pick. The Nuggets, who will be deep into the luxury tax after re-signing restricted free agent center Nikola Jokic next month, have about $34 million in expiring contracts for Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and Wilson Chandler to send out in possible deals.”
Denver could be interested because they currently project to pay over $25 million in luxury tax even before making another move this offseason.
Los Angeles currently has enough available room to make such a deal. But even if it helps them land Leonard, it would jeopardize the flexibility they currently have to add LeBron James and another top-caliber free agent.
The Lakers, of course, want to retain enough cap space to add two max-contract players this offseason so they can sign both James and Paul George. They would need to immediately flip whatever player they acquire to San Antonio.
This could be enticing for the Spurs because the previously mentioned players all have expiring contracts that will come off the books next offseason, helping them become players in the 2019 free agency market.
If the Lakers do complete such a trade without sending the big expiring contract to San Antonio (or another team), it could be an indication that George plans to re-sign with the Thunder because Los Angeles would no longer need to preserve their cap space for this summer.
Because Faried, Arthur and Chandler all have expiring contracts, the Lakers could still be players in the summer of 2019. That’s when stars such as Leonard, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler among others will be on the market. If the Lakers can’t make a big move this offseason (or want to make multiple moves), they could swing again next year.