Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Dwight Howard is somebody that Laker fans used to know?
Some believe that if Dwight Howard walks away from the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2013 offseason, the team will still retool and attract other big names.
Although that will probably become a reality in the summer of 2014 when the Lakers will have somewhere between $20 and $35 million in cap room (depending on whom they retain), that is not the case in 2013.
Per Hoopshype, the Lakers already have a projected payroll of $78.2 million heading into the 2013-14 season. Howard’s cap figure is not included in that amount.
Consequently, the Lakers are already over the salary cap and should be above the luxury tax line. The apron is not yet determined, but the figure should be announced around the July moratorium (between July 1st and July 9th).
Once announced, the Lakers should have roughly a little over $3 million to spend on a free agent with their taxpayer mid-level exception. That’s it.
Granted, the Purple and Gold can use the amnesty provision on either Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol, which would alleviate some of the salary constraints, but not all of them.
If the provision is used on Bryant (a big if), the Lakers gain approximately $13 million in cap space. On the other hand, if it is instead used on Gasol, the Lakers acquire something ranging between $1 and $3 million in cap space—should they renounce their free agents.
The Gasol amnesty opens up the book a little for the Lakers and affords them the use of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.15 million.
The last scenario is the most unlikely one: The Lakers use the amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant and trade away Pau Gasol for a fringe player and free up a massive amount under the salary cap.
As previously pointed out though, these moves do not provide sufficient financial relief for the acquisition of Chris Paul and Howard. However, it could work for, say, Paul and Josh Smith.
A core of Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and Steve Nash would flank the tandem (remember, Bryant is gone for the season in this situation).
With that said, it’s still a less-than-realistic possibility considering that signing the duo to long-term contracts effectively eats away at the projected 2014 cap room.
It’s widely assumed around the league the Lakers wish to maintain that flexibility in 2014 so they can lure in LeBron James. If Howard leaves the Lakers in 2013, it would probably take them at least a year to bounce back given the roster challenges.