The Los Angeles Lakers need to move on from some of the big contracts they have on their books in order to create the sort of cap space necessary to sign two superstars to max contracts come free agency this summer. One of those players is Luol Deng, who is due to make $18 million next season and $18.8 million in the 2019-20 season, per Spotrac.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, however, the Lakers have virtually given up on moving Deng via a trade.
“You talk to teams around the league, no one is bailing the Lakers out with Deng’s contract. They’re not," he reported on the Full Court Press show (h/t Lakers Outsiders). "Teams have asked for multiple first-round picks. They've asked for Brandon Ingram. They’ll ask for Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers have essentially given up on the idea that they can trade Deng."
The Lakers aren't devoid of options, however. The team can still use the stretch provision to waive him, for instance, which would allow the Lakers to pay the final two years of Deng's salaries over five seasons, essentially reducing his cap hit to around $7.3 million each year.
The stretch provision allows teams to waive a player after stretching his cap hit to double the years remaining on his contract plus one additional season.
The team could get even more creative than that, as B/R's Eric Pincus suggested in November, signing him to a three-year extension to further alleviate his cap hit after using the stretch provision.
As Pincus wrote: "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."
Deng could still sign with another team next season and make $2.4 million, which could be enticement enough for the veteran to agree to such an arrangement. It would allow the Lakers the freedom to sign two max free agents, meanwhile, assuming they also move on from pending free agents like Julius Randle and Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Brewer and Andrew Bogut and waive players like Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant and Tyler Ennis.
If Deng doesn't agree to sign an extension before being stretched and waived, however, the Lakers will need to trade Jordan Clarkson—due to make $12.5 million next season and $13.4 million in 2019-20, per Spotrac—if they want the cap space to sign two of the coveted free agents this summer, which includes LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Paul.