Remember the 2016 cap bonanza? Luol Deng and his agent do every two weeks when a chek comes in the mail (or an email notification from the bank.) Due to the contract he signed in that crazy offseason, Deng is the 4th highest-paid player on the Los Angeles Lakers roster – his agent deserves a raise.
Where is Luol Deng now?
After spending his last season and a half with the Lakers on the sidelines, Deng suited up for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfortunately, he suffered a career-ending injury which explains why he has not been seen on the court for quite some time now. Yet, the Lakers are still paying the small forward $5 million in ’21/’22 after paying him $5 million this past season. They stretched Deng in 2018 and are still suffering the consequences. After his injury with the Timberwolves, management tried to appeal to the NBA to relieve his salary off the books but was denied. L.A. tried to claim the career-ending injury exclusion but to no avail. The British player effectively retired in 2019, but the Lakers are still paying the consequences of a decision they made 5 years ago.
If granted their wish, the Lakers could have used Deng’s $10 million to attract other talents in the free-agent market. Getting his salary off the books means the 36-year-old will still get paid the rest of the amount of his contract after being waived.
How will the Lakers fill up their roster?
As it now stands, LeBron James ranks second among the highest paid on the team in the ’21/’22 season with more than $41 million. Russell Westbrook is the top money man with a $44 million salary. Anthony Davis is third with $35.3 million. Deng comes next and is paid more than Marc Gasol at no.5.
Los Angeles might have to open their war chest to fill up roster spots. The trio of Westbrook, James, and Davis are all under max contracts. The Lakers need to try to lure veterans who are ring chasing to join them at this point of their careers. Experts wonder if the risk of blowing up the team to win another title is worth it.
With Carmelo Anthony and DeMar DeRozan linked to the Lakers, it’s obvious they will chase guys who made enough money in their career but are still looking for that elusive NBA title. Right now, the Lakers need to find floor spacers so James and Westbrook can co-exist at the same time. It will not be a surprise if they add shooters from the free-agent market – all paid less than Luol Deng.