The Los Angeles Lakers came into free agency throwing money around like a lottery winner dropped in the middle of a Las Vegas casino, but it was always assumed there were no such thing as bad contracts in the midst of a colossal cap jump with another one in store for next summer.
That may still prove to be the case, but it looks like the Lakers (and the rest of the league) will have a little less money to work with next offseason than was previously thought.
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reported on Thursday that a league memo revealed the NBA’s new salary cap projections, and instead of the cap jumping up to $107 million as previously projected, it will “only” jump to $102 million.
Why do NBA teams have about $5 million less in wiggle room to work with next summer? It’s fairly complicated, so I’ll let Pincus explain more succinctly and accurately than I ever could.
Back in April, the league originally expected teams to fall below their proscribed obligation to the players of near 51 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) by $375 million.
For the 2015-16 season, the NBA will pay out an additional $130.9 million to players for falling below the 50.83 percent share of $2.689 billion due to the players – which, by the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), helped push the 2016-17 salary up to $94.1 million.
The NBA now expects teams to spend more this season, with the higher salary cap and luxury tax threshold ($113.3 million). The league also didn’t expect quite as much high-level spending on free agents this July.
What does this mean for the Lakers? Well, it means they’ll likely have a bit less breathing room next summer if they want to chase big fish in free agency.
As things stand right now, the Lakers have around $52 million in guaranteed salary next summer. However, that number does not include the essential inevitability of the Lakers picking up contract options on D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance, Jr. It also omits Nick Young (likely to be traded or waived using the stretch provision), as well as Tarik Black and Anthony Brown (both non-guaranteed).
If the Lakers jettison Young but picked up all of those other options, they would have around $70 million in committed cap space, leaving them enough room for one max contract but not a ton else. That may not matter if the team continues its strategy of acquiring solid veterans to play around their core group, but it is worth noting nonetheless.
As we’ve witnessed this summer, teams can always find ways to generate a little more room (shout out to the Golden State Warriors). This news just means the Lakers will have to be a little more creative if they wish to do so.