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Mike Dunleavy, Jr: The type of player Lakers fans can look forward to landing this summer
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA's wealthiest teams, but they probably won't be able to flex their financial muscle much this summer.
If they re-sign Dwight Howard and don't amnesty Kobe Bryant (which I bet they won't), they will lack wiggle room under the collective bargaining agreement to add talent.
Pau Gasol also has a massive contract. They could trade him, but league rules mean that they will likely have to take back a similar amount of salary in a trade. If they wanted to get out of Gasol's 2013-14 salary cap hit, last season really would have been the time to do it.
Now, they are fairly locked in.
There are three increasingly strict levels of "locked in:" Being over the salary cap, being over the luxury tax and being over the "apron."
Being over the apron kills flexibility the most.
With Bryant getting $30 million, Gasol close to $20 million, Steve Nash pushing $10 million, according to Sham Sports, that's where the Lakers are. And that's why they won't be able to make many significant moves in free agency.
The one and only Larry Coon, CBA expert extraordinaire, explained on his CBA FAQ Blog.
Taxpaying teams now have a smaller Mid-Level exception, and can’t use the Bi-Annual exception at all. And starting this summer, they can’t receive a player in a sign-and-trade transaction either. In other words, all the tools that GMs of capped-out teams use to maneuver have become inaccessible.
The union did manage to negotiate a higher tripping point for these system changes. Rather than taking effect right at the tax line, they are triggered at a point $4 million over it – a point they call “the apron.” Once a team is over the apron, they can’t use their Bi-Annual exception, they can’t trade for another team’s free agent in a sign-and-trade, and their Mid-Level exception is a lot smaller than their peers’.
That's the main tool the Lakers have: a smaller mid-level exception. Also known as the "mini" mid-level exception. With it, they can entice free agents who want to earn $3 million per year.
It's a small number. Chris Duhon, for example, made $3.5 million this year. Some other, more-valuable players around that range last season: Vince Carter ($3.1 million), Ray Allen ($3.1 million) and Chauncey Billups ($4.0 million).
Meanwhile, players like Jason Terry ($5.0 million), Jamal Crawford ($5.0 million) and Nick Young ($5.6 million) are making more than the Lakers can afford to pay.
The biggest ray of hope: O.J. Mayo, who signed with the Dallas Maverick last offseason for $4.0 million. Mayo himself is unlikely to be available this summer for the price Los Angeles can play, but there could be a younger, productive guy in the market who, for whatever reason, ends up signing for less than expected.
But it will be more likely to see the Lakers improve by finding an older player who has already made a bunch of money and now just wants to fill a role on a good team.
Someone like Carter and Allen would be a good get.
Looking at this summer's free agent crop, someone like Mike Duleavy, Jr. is a good projection for the type of player that Lakers fans may welcome to the roster.
A Possible Los Angeles Lakers 2013-14 Opening Day Roster
Kobe Bryant (inactive)
Metta World Peace