Today the Lakers announced that they have extended Kobe Bryant for two seasons. Terms were not announced, but Ramona Shelburne reported that he will make $23.5 million and $25 million, respectively.
[UPDATE: I have since confirmed that the salary figures are exactly $23.5 million and $25 million. He continues to have an accelerated pay schedule, no incentives, and his contract is fully guaranteed for lack of skill, injury or illness, death, or mental disability.]
Two years is the longest extension he could have signed due to the Over-36 rule. This rule takes effect when a contract is for more than three seasons and ends after the player’s 36th birthday, effectively mooting the salary in the later seasons. For extensions they always count the remaining seasons on the current contract — so Kobe now effectively has a three-year contract, which is the maximum allowed before running into the Over-36 rule. See Question number 56 of my FAQ for more information on this rule.
So where does this leave the team with respect to the 2014 free agent market? The players on the team’s books next summer are as follows:
|Nick Young||$1,227,985||Player option|
The salary cap next summer is projected to be $62.9 million. The Lakers will also have their own first round draft pick. Based on their current record, this pick would fall around #15, and would therefore count around $1.5 million against their cap.This would give them a total of about $37.66 million for six players. We need to add another six cap holds totaling $3,04 million, which brings the total to about $40,70 million.
With this team salary, the Lakers would have about $22.2 million in cap room next summer. This will be enough for one maximum-salary player — for example, Carmelo Anthony is eligible to receive up to $22,458,401. While this is slightly above the Lakers’ maximum, there are other things the team can do to create more cap room if Anthony doesn’t want to take slightly less than the amount for which he ls eligible.
The team can save a small amount if it waives Elias Harris’ non-guaranteed salary. A larger savings will come if they waive Steve Nash and utilize the Stretch provision on him. If this happens, only $3.23 million of Nash’s full $9.7 million salary will remain on their books.
If they remove both Harris and Nash, their team salary will drop to about $34.44 million, which would give them about $28.46 million in cap room. This would give them the opportunity to sign one maximum-salary player, and a second player at around the mid-level amount. They would also be eligible to utilize the Room Mid-Level exception for around $2.7 million.
However, this assumes they let all of their free agents walk, including Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, and Jodie Meeks. If the wish to retain any of these players, they will remain on the team’s cap — in fact, Gasol’s cap hold alone will eat up most of the team’s cap room. To free up the potential cap room, these players will have to either:
a) Re-sign with the Lakers, in which case their new salary will count against the team’s cap, which will reduce their cap room for signing free agents.
b) Sign elsewhere, in which case they will be lost.
c) Be renounced by the Lakers, in which case the team loses the ability to sign them using Bird rights.
Let’s say the Lakers really wanted to keep Gasol.While he’s an unrenounced free agent he would count about $20.25 million against the team’s cap, reducing their cap room to about $8.75 million. If he re-signs and takes a one-third discount (similar to what Kobe took) he’d receive about $13 million, which would drop the team’s cap room to about $16 million. If they renounce him they can reclaim the entire $28+ million, but then he’d have to be willing to sign for whatever cap space remains after the team signs other free agents.
So if the Lakers are going to follow-through with their 2014 plan, keeping Gasol would likely require him to take a steep discount.