UPDATE: This is version 2 of this post, revised to fix some problems with the first version and the omission of the sign & trade scenario (thanks Eric Pincus).
I’ve gotten several questions about whether the Lakers could clear enough cap room to sign both LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. Assuming neither is willing to compromise on his salary for 2015-16, I don’t see how that is realistic.
Just to use round numbers. here is what the Lakers roster will look like after July 1:
||Cap hold for draft rights
|Larry Nance Jr.
||Cap hold for draft rights
I’m not including any of the Lakers’ pending free agents — Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, etc. Let’s assume they wave goodbye to every free agent in order to maximize their cap room (which is not to say they wouldn’t be able to re-sign any of them later — they just wouldn’t have Bird rights, and would instead have to re-sign them with any remaining cap room or an exception).
I’m going to assume that Bryant, Clarkson, Randle and Russell are their core — the rest are fungible (including Larry Nance, Jr.). Those guys add up to $33.3 million (in Russell’s case, I’m counting his cap hold. He’s eligible for 20 percent above this amount, but he would not be signed until after the Lakers have done their free agent shopping.
For the sake of argument, let’s also assume the Lakers are able to unload every other salary — Black, Brown, Kelly, Sacre and Young — through trade (with no salary coming back) or through releasing non-guaranteed contracts. This is the extreme case where they cull away everyone who isn’t a part of their core.
With only four players on the roster, we have to account for eight empty spaces with cap holds of approximately $0.5 million each — or $4.0 million total. That brings our total to about $37.3 million.
The cap is expected to be around $67.1 million next season, which leaves us with about $29.8 million in cap room.
Jordan and Aldridge will both have starting salaries of around $18.8 million. We can fit one easily. But once we sign one of them, that brings our total to $55.6 million (one of the cap holds goes away), and reduces our cap room to about $11.5 million.
That’s about $7.3 million away from signing another player who will command an $18.8 million starting salary. I already think we’re at the minimum roster the Lakers would have, and even if they dump everyone else but Kobe, they’re still short.
Even if the roster consists of just Kobe and no one else, the Lakers could not afford both Jordan and Aldridge at their market value.
So if the Lakers want to sign both Jordan and Aldridge, they need to do one of the following:
SCENARIO 1: Get rid of Kobe. They can’t trade him unless he agrees, because of his no-trade clause. They could waive him and stretch his salary, however. The cap hit for this season would reduce to about $8.3 million, clearing about $16.2 million off their cap. This would give them enough cap room to sign both Aldridge and Jordan, and they’d even be able to hang onto Black, Brown, Kelly, Sacre and Young, and still have room to spare.
SCENARIO 2: Convince either Jordan, or Aldridge, or both to take less money. This scenario probably isn’t very likely — not when several teams will be competing for both players’ services.
SCENARIO 3: Sign-and-trade. If the Lakers kept some of their free agents, they potentially could sign Jordan with their cap room, and then compile enough salary (about $13.8 million) to instrument a sign-and-trade with the Blazers for Aldridge.
Here’s how something like that might work:
1. The Lakers keep all their players under contract, and do not waive anyone.
2. The Lakers could also keep their draft rights to Nance, and their Bird rights to Wes Johnson (Early-Bird), and Ronnie Price (non-Bird). They’d have 13 players spoken for (including Russell & Nance), so no additional cap holds. Their total would be about $47.6 million. (Since Ed Davis is asking for a pretty hefty salary, retaining his Bird rights would likely be of no benefit. They could also choose to hang onto the rights to Wayne Ellington rather than Ronnie Price.)
3. The Lakers would then sign DeAndre Jordan for $18.8 million, bringing their total to $66.4 million ($700,000 under the cap).
4. The Blazers then sign-and-trade LaMarcus Aldridge to the Lakers for a package that has at least $13.8 million going out. One such package might be Julius Randle (probably necessary in order for the Blazers to bite), Nick Young, Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, and Wes Johnson, who is signed for close to the average salary as an Early-Bird free agent in a sign-and trade. Since this would trigger the base year compensation rule, Johnson’s salary would count only 50 percent in the trade. The teams could also choose to negotiate whether to include the rights to Nance and/or future draft considerations and/or cash.
So in summary, the Lakers would be signing Jordan using cap room, and trading for Aldridge as a cap team and ensuring the trade conforms to the league’s salary matching requirements.
Also a pretty unlikely scenario, but a possible one.
So while it’s possible for the Lakers (perhaps with the Blazers’ cooperation) to construct a deal that brings both Jordan and Aldridge to the Lakers, the few possible scenarios are all pretty unlikely.
Perhaps one or both decide they’re okay with signing for a lower salary for one year, knowing they’ll be able to cash in next summer when the cap increases substantially. Or perhaps if Aldridge indicates a clear preference for signing with the Lakers, the Blazers will be more amenable to discussing sign-and-trade possibilities.
But in any event, I wouldn’t consider any of these scenarios to be likely.