With the framework of an Anthony Davis trade in place, the Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to create enough salary-cap space to sign a max-level free agent, according to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks.
Wojnarowski reported the Lakers are making the trio of Moe Wagner, Jemerrio Jones and Isaac Bonga available. Together, the three account for almost $4.9 million next season.
Los Angeles agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans to land Davis, but the trade won’t be official until July 6, per Wojnarowski and Marks. Because of the timing of the trade, the Lakers would only have $23.7 million in cap space to sign new players.
Wojnarowski and Marks added how the Lakers will attempt to gain more financial flexibility:
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Lakers are aggressively pursuing the purchase of second-round picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft too, league sources tell ESPN. Those picks will offer two important things for LA: acquisition of inexpensive labor and ability to exceed the salary cap with those minimum contracts. https://t.co/19s9qn8Lbm
Bobby Marks @BobbyMarks42
Under this scenario, Davis would need to waive all of his $4M trade bonus to make the money work. If there is a taker(s), LAL could sign 1 or multiple players with $32.5M in room on 7/6 and still make the AD trade on the same day. As of now, Los Angels will have $23.8M in room. https://t.co/uGcfasjGFo
The obvious difficulty for Los Angeles is none of Wagner, Jones and Bonga has much trade value.
Bonga played a total of 120 minutes as a rookie this past season, while Jones made six appearances for the Lakers. Wagner spent the most time on the court, averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 43 games.
Along with that, opposing general managers probably won’t bend over backward in order to aid the Lakers in their quest to ultimately sign a marquee free agent.
The Cleveland Cavaliers famously helped Los Angeles get LeBron James when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. in February 2018. Getting Clarkson’s and Nance’s contracts off the books allowed the Lakers to offer James a max contract last summer.
The Cavs were in desperation mode, though, and both Nance and Clarkson were far more established than Wagner, Jones and Bonga. They immediately became contributors for Cleveland and provided a lift in the second half of the season en route to a fourth straight NBA Finals trip.
That desperation to get the Lakers’ leftovers simply won’t be there now for another team.
The Lakers kept Kyle Kuzma out of the Davis trade because they “see him as a fit with Davis and LeBron James in the front court,” according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Brad Turner.
July 6 is an important date in the NBA offseason because that’s when teams can officially sign free agents. To create another max slot in time to sign a third star, Los Angeles might have to seriously consider trade scenarios for Kuzma.