As Lakers fans watch Paul George dominate in Oklahoma City – it’s early, but after 13 games he’s leading the NBA in steals (2.5) and shooting a career-best on 3’s pointers (41.7%) – and LeBron continue to be a 1-man show in Cleveland, July 2018 can’t come soon enough.
The Lakers are putting on a decent show themselves – a 6-8 start in the competitive West with improved play from the likes of reserves Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle – but everyone wants to know one thing: Can the Lakers afford Paul George and LeBron without giving up one of its young stars?
If a report is to be believed, the answer is a resounding yes. According to Bleacher Report, one option for the Lakers – without having to part with rookies Lonzo Ball or Kyle Kuzma, or 20-year old Brandon Ingram – is to stretch Luol Deng’s terrible contract and then extend him:
With the $36.8 million owed to Deng over the next two, the Lakers can stretch him out to $7.4 million over five years, which would open $9.8 million in additional cap space in July.
That isn’t quite enough to get to two max slots, putting the Lakers at about $57.3 million in space.
That’s where a Deng extension can help, with the caveat that any additional salary doesn’t have to be guaranteed. By adding three years to his deal with no extra money guaranteed, the Lakers would have the ability to stretch Deng’s salary over 11 total years, at $3.3 million a season.
As absurd is that sounds – give a 32-year old who doesn’t play an extension! – it’ll save them money and apparently prevent them from having to unload Ball, Kuzma or Ingram. It’s like the Bobby Bonilla contract!
Sure, the Lakers will have to part with Clarkson, who could be the 6th man of the year, but then they could shift Ingram to the bench as a super sub. Or perhaps he slides to shooting guard.
But if this stretch-extension option for Deng hits, I’m not sure what could keep LeBron and Paul George out of LA.