Lakers Cap Space: How Much Money Can L.A. Spend on LeBron & Others in Free Agency

How much cap space do the Los Angeles Lakers have to use during the 2018 NBA free agency period? According to Real GM’s Keith Smith, the Lakers can have as much as $60.61 million in cap space, but are projected to have $46.82 in room. The Lakers would still have a bit of maneuvering to do to sign two max players. Still, the Lakers have the most cap space of any NBA team in the league, giving them ultimate flexibility when constructing a team for next season.

According to Hoops Rumors, a free agent like LeBron James, or any player with 10+ years of experience, can make a max salary of $35.35 million next season. Players with 7-9 years of experience, can earn a max salary of $30.3 million. Clint Capela and others with six years or less in the league can make a max salary of $25.25 million for the 2018-19 season.

The Lakers would be at least $10 million short to sign two veteran players to max deals, but it is not clear if Los Angeles would offer a player like DeMarcus Cousins a max contract. With Cousins coming off an injury, the Lakers may be able to get Cousins on a discount. Capela is a restricted free agent, which means the Rockets can match any offer the Lakers or another team make.

What we do know is the Lakers can offer James a max contract. From there, Los Angeles would have some roster shuffling to do to add a key second piece. Another option for the Lakers is to acquire Kawhi Leonard through a trade. Leonard will make $20 million next season per Spotrac, and the Spurs would have to accept back similar salaries for the teams to make it work under the cap. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst’s reported the Lakers are still the favorites to sign James in free agency. Vegas also has the Lakers as the favorites.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported James flew into Los Angeles prior to the start of free agency. So far, James representatives have been taking meetings in Los Angeles, and it is unclear if James will leave California to take face-to-face meetings with teams.

As things stand now, Smith’s projections have the Lakers with $59.96 million of cap space for 2019. This would change if the Lakers sign James or other free agents. The Lakers have a back-up option of saving their money, and using their cap space next summer. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported some NBA teams believe James has already decided on the Lakers, but is stretching out the process for added drama.

Yes, the Lakers are still favorites—but not total locks—to sign LeBron James, league sources say. For what it’s worth, some executives believe LeBron’s indecision is all theater, and he has already decided on the Lakers as his new team.

O’Connor also reported James is not expected to sign with the Lakers on a long-term deal, if he does choose Los Angeles. Just as he did in 2014, James is likely to sign a shorter contract that allows him to do this whole thing again in a few summers.

The nice thing about the new NBA is that every season is temporary. Short contracts are the new normal. James could be sold on the idea of a trial with Cousins, with the possibility of filling the second star seat with a better option in the future. If the Lakers make an offer, league sources expect it to be a shorter-term max contract for either one or two seasons. The Pelicans could also make a two-year offer, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Thursday on SportsCenter. But if the Lakers become a legitimate threat to sign Cousins, it’ll be interesting to see if the Pelicans are pressured to offer him a longer-term deal.

The Lakers have positioned themselves with a massive amount of cap space to make noise this summer. If the Lakers strike out this summer, they are likely to try to make a splash in the summer of 2019.

Source: Heavy Sports