The Los Angeles Lakers entered free agency with little salary cap flexibility, a predicament that comes with having two All-Stars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — on the roster.
But vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and his front office proved their negotiating prowess and emerged as one of the winners of the offseason.
Having traded for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s sixth man Dennis Schroder, L.A. added free agents Montrez Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wes Matthews to their championship roster. All the while bringing back two crucial role players, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris.
The Lakers showed off creativity in contract and trade negotiations that allowed them to make the widely-lauded free agency moves. However, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports they failed in removing Loul Deng’s lingering salary off the books as their career-ending injury application was unsuccessful:
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 26, 2020
L.A. signed Deng to a hyper-inflated four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, a move that defined the dark period in the franchise’s history that saw them miss out on the playoffs for seven straight years.
The forward was waived and his salary stretched in 2018, but he then went on to play 22 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, which possibly resulted in the NBA rejecting the Lakers’ application.
L.A. owes Deng $5 million per season through the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
Pelinka: L.A. targeted ‘star role players’ in free agency
Roster depth undeniably proved to be central to the Lakers’ successful title challenge last season.
Pelinka heaped praise on Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, Caldwell-Pope and others who stepped up and provided James and Davis with a tremendous amount of support throughout the postseason. He called them “star role players,” adding the term often unjustly has a negative connotation to it.
Ahead of free agency, Pelinka said L.A would look for exactly this type of players in the offseason, hoping to preserve its roster’s versatility and depth. And having brought in the winner and runner-up of last season’s Sixth Man of the Year award in Schroder and Harrell, it is fair to say Pelinka accomplished his goal.
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