Deal with Marc Gasol exacerbates a serious pre-existing problem for the Lakers: their lack of negotiable salary

The Lakers never seemed to fully appreciate what Marc Gasol brought to court. They signed him to shoot, pass and play smart defense, but despite doing exactly those things, they’ve now replaced him with questionable fits on several occasions. The Andre Drummond saga was well documented, and while it’s not clear whether the addition of DeAndre Jordan was a reaction to Gasol’s desire to return to Spain or what motivated him in the first place, it is worth considering note that Gasol has publicly committed to return. to the Lakers in August, before Jordan was pictured.

But for a Lakers team that is certain to close with Anthony Davis at the center of the playoffs, Gasol’s value on the field in the playoffs was pretty minimal. He will be 37 in January and Phoenix brutally targeted him in pick-and-roll in the first round. As comfortable as his shots and passes would have been alongside Russell Westbrook, the Lakers really only lose about 15 minutes per game giving it away. It probably won’t make the difference between winning a championship and losing prematurely, but what Gasol brought to the Lakers on the pitch was ultimately not as valuable as what he could have done for them. Gasol was one of the Lakers’ most important trading chips.

No, this does not mean that Gasol had substantial commercial value. The Lakers gave the Grizzlies a second-round pick to take it on. But the Lakers have an extremely unorthodox salary structure. Ignoring dead money, over 81% of their team pay is spent on three players: Davis, Westbrook and LeBron James. Only five players on the list earn more than minimum wage, the other two being Talen Horton-Tucker ($ 9.5 million) and Kendrick Nunn ($ 5 million). The wisdom of building such a hefty list is questionable, but what isn’t are the limits it places on a front office. When your top three players are functionally non-tradable, it becomes much more difficult to make any kind of meaningful in-season trade with what’s left. Even though the Lakers can use draft picks to convince a rebuilding team to give them an expensive player, they just don’t have much of a way to match that salary to make such a trade legal.

That’s where Gasol comes in. Most of the Lakers’ minimum wage signings will count for just under $ 1.7 million from the cap. This is the minimum wage for a player with two years of NBA experience. Older players earn more, but the NBA refunds teams the difference and does not count it against the cap so as not to discourage them from signing veterans. There is, however, one exception to this rule. When a player signs a multi-year minimum contract, it counts towards the actual amount he receives in the cap. This was the case for Gasol, who signed a two-year contract during the last offseason. That made him count around $ 2.7 million against the cap rather than the roughly $ 1.7 million for all other Laker minimums. He was, in terms of cap, the sixth most expensive Laker even though he was technically doing the minimum.

All this to say that if the Lakers had wanted to make an interesting trade in season, keeping Gasol’s salary would have been useful. Combine the salaries of Gasol and Nunn, for example, and the Lakers could have absorbed a player worth around $ 9.6 million. Under any other minimum player and that number drops to just $ 8.4 million. This difference may seem small, but when you factor in other players and possible cap machinations like stepladder trades, it could be the difference between the Lakers being able to match pay on a 3-and-D wing. precious like Terrence Ross and not being able to do it. It is reasonable to assume that the Lakers are considering transactions of this nature because J. Michael, then of the Indianapolis Star, recently reported that they are interested in Jeremy Lamb and his salary of $ 10.5 million. Yet they have actively made such an acquisition more difficult by delivering Gasol now.

So why did they do it? Gasol had an agency here, for example. He could have retired at any time and taken that decision away from them. Out of charity, we might call it a favor to a veteran player. The Gasol family is Lakers royalty thanks to Pau’s tenure in purple and gold. His breakup with the Lakers was not particularly friendly. After a tumultuous season, the Lakers may not have wished for a similar fate for his brother. He probably wouldn’t have been happy to wait in commercial purgatory for a mid-season deal that may never come.

But there was also an undeniable financial element in this decision. Gasol’s move saved the Lakers $ 10 million in luxury wages and taxes, and even though the Lakers sign another veteran to occupy the 14th spot on their list, the demotion of $ 2.7 million de Gasol at $ 1.7 million will still keep those tax savings at around $ 4 million. If they had instead withheld Gasol for the express purpose of trading it later, the cost would have been eight figures. Keep in mind that not only would they have given up on those savings, but they would likely have added a more expensive player than the package they would send overall. In addition to the trade increasing their payroll, they would also have to sign more players to fill vacancies in what would almost certainly have been an imbalanced trade.

It would be unfair to call the Lakers cheap during an offseason in which they acquired the fourth highest paid player in all of basketball, but they have undoubtedly made some financially motivated decisions. Alex Caruso was would be willing to leave money on the table to go back to the Lakers, but they still chose not to re-sign him. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports have indicated that they plan to keep their 15th place on the roster open at the start of the season, a move that will ultimately save millions more against the tax. They have access to sources of income that other teams can only dream of, but they currently only have the sixth highest payroll in basketball. Forget about big markets like Brooklyn and Golden State spending too much. At the moment, they’re much closer to the smaller Bucks and Jazz markets. They will have to sign a 14th player to exceed them in salary commitments.

The Lakers could certainly still make a decent-sized trade this season. They could even give themselves a more negotiable salary by re-signing Wes Matthews to a deal worth more than the minimum using his non-bird rights. It just doesn’t seem like the Lakers are willing to make the financial commitments necessary to position themselves for such a move without knowing for sure it’s coming. These budgetary concerns are not necessarily firm. For the good deal, the Lakers might still be willing to add a paycheck. They just don’t seem willing to do it blindly.

Gasol’s decision may not have been in their hands. He might have decided to retire regardless of their movements. They might also have recognized those savings and started the ball rolling by suing Jordan. As the Drummond saga demonstrated, they weren’t exactly in love with his skills. No matter how or why the Lakers decided to trade Gasol on Friday, the likely outcome was a slightly less flexible roster. Unless the Lakers surprisingly lower Matthews above the minimum or add a similarly priced player via the Gasol trade exception generated more than 60 days before the trade deadline, their non-minimum wages to be suspended. in eventual in-season agreements will be Horton-Tucker. and Nunn. That’s it. That doesn’t necessarily rule out trades, but it makes them even more difficult for a team that was in charge at the start. Gasol may not have been a factor for the Lakers in the playoffs. He might not even have been in the rotation. But he was a tool the Lakers could have used to help find someone who might have been. Now he’s not, and the Lakers will have to trust even more who they already have to compensate.

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About Clara Barnard

Clara Barnard

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