NBA Roundtable

2009 Teams With Cap Concerns: Los Angeles Lakers

In Free Agency, General NBA, Trade Talk on June 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Los Angeles Lakers Salaries

Let’s start off by looking at who is currently on Lakers books for next season.

Here are the contracts over five million dollars

  • Pau Gasol – $16.45 million
  • Andrew Bynum – $12.5 million
  • Adam Morrison – $5.26 million
  • Derek Fisher – $5.05 million
  • Sasha Vujacic – $5.0 million

That totals $44.26 million for five players.

Pau Gasol will be entering the second last season of his contract, as will Vujacic. Meanwhile, Adam Morrison and Derek Fisher are both expiring contracts. Andrew Bynum will be beginning the first year of his four year contract extension.

Now let’s have a look at the rest of their contracts

  • Luke Walton – $4.84 million
  • Jordan Farmar – $1.95 million

These two contracts add up to $6.8 million.

That brings Orlando’s total up to $51.05 million for seven players.

Other costs

  • Kobe Bryant To Opt Out — Kobe would have been due a contract worth $23.03 million next season. Assuming he signs for the maximum allowed, at least in the first year of his extension, Kobe will be due to earn $22.32 million next year.
  • First Round Draft Pick – The Lakers own the rights to the #29 draft pick and that comes with a cap hold of $830k
  • Non-Guaranteed Salaries — To my surprise, Josh Powell is on the books for another season. As is DJ Mbenga and Sun Yue. $100k of Yue’s deal is guaranteed, but it appears none of the other two’s contracts are guaranteed. I expect all three to return to the Lakers next season. Yue is the biggest question mark but I think the Lakers let his potential play out for another year. Powell and Mbenga are due $960k apiece, while Yue is due $736k.
  • Open Roster Spots – The Lakers have seven players on the books, plus Kobe, plus the draft pick, and three partially guaranteed contracts, for a total of 12 players. The Lakers would need at least one more body, which will cost between $475k to $825k.

That would give the Lakers additional costs of around $22.28 million.

That would bring the Lakers total up to $77.31 million.

The Cap+ Luxury Tax Line

We don’t really know what will happen to the salary cap heading into next season, although it looks most likely that the cap will decline (secondary possibility that it holds steady). However, if my memory serves me, I believe I read somewhere that the league was more definitive over the luxury tax and said that it would definitely decrease this summer.

The league handed out a memo just before the trade deadline containing estimates on possible cap figures. That memo had the tax threshold decreasing from $71.15mil to $69.4mil. Here is an extract from ESPN with information on those numbers

On Feb. 18, Stern authorized the dispatch of a memo to all 30 teams projecting a drop in the salary cap from $58.7 million this season to $57.3 million in 2009-10 and a subsequent drop to $56.5 million in 2010-11, with a projected decline for the luxury-tax threshold as well: $71.2 million this season to $69.4 million in 2009-10 to $68.5 million in 2010-11.

For the purposes of these posts — teams facing cap concerns in 2009 — I will be solely using that suggested figure – $69.4 million – from the league’s front office.

Lakers versus Luxury Tax

Therefore, the Lakers are $7.93 million over the luxury tax threshold.

Make The Problem Bigger

The Lakers $8 million luxury tax bill is only the beginning of their problems. They have two key free agents and one other free agent who they would also like to keep around.

  • Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza are the key free agents
  • Shannon Brown is the other free agent

How much are they likely to get paid this offseason?

  • Lamar Odom is likely looking for a contract worth around $8 million per annum. It’s unclear how much interest there will be for him above the MLE.
  • Trevor Ariza is looking at a minimum offer of the MLE, and possibly as much as $7-8 million. Let’s count him down for $6 million per annum for now.
  • Shannon Brown is looking at offers between the minimum and the LLE. I think he’ll get the minimum, so I’m not worried about him.

That would add another $15 million to the Lakers payroll, taking LA up to a salary total of $92 million, which would lead to a total payout of $105 million.

Lakers Main Options

What are the Lakers main options?

  • Pay the tax or lose two key players in Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza

Any other smaller cost saving ideas?

  • Let Brown leave to save $1.6 million. Leave the roster spot open. Also waive Mbenga or Yue, and have only 13 bodies on the roster next season, saving another $1.6 million. That’s a total of $3.2 million right there.
  • Nobody wants their overpaid role players — Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic — so moving them would come at considerable cost.
  • That leaves Adam Morrison, who again nobody wants but at least he’s an expiring contract. The Lakers could couple him up with a first round draft pick, actually it would probably take two first rounders, and sell him off to a team below the salary cap. That would save $5.26 million in salary, and $10.6 million in total costs. Combined with cutting one of Brown/Yue/Mbenga, the Lakers would save $12 million.
  • Coupling Farmar with a bad role player contract. He’ll be entering his fourth season, and will be due for a contract extension next season which the Lakers cannot afford to pay, so they’re going to lose him sometime in the near future. It would considerably weaken their bench though. A relatively (bench wise) large risk.
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