Here’s a repeater line on the Lakers’ failure to trade Russell Westbrook

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westbrook g Here's a repeater line on the Lakers' failure to trade Russell Westbrook

The events of this past week were a severe blow to the thousands of Los Angeles Lakers fans eagerly awaiting a Russell Westbrook trade. It started on Wednesday, when Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan revealed Myles Turner will open the season at Indiana. Team executives aren’t known for their candour, but with training camp set to begin next week, it’s hard to imagine him flustered. A day later, Utah Traded Bojan Bogdanovic is the centerpiece of a potential Westbrook deal for the Detroit Pistons. Never say never in the modern NBA, but with Utah effectively out of the running and Indiana publicly bowing out, it certainly appears that Westbrook is going to start the season in purple and gold.

When Westbrook delivered in April, such a decision felt unfathomable One of the most shocking exit interviews ever in NBA history. The team publicly made every effort to welcome him back to the team, but he parted ways with longtime agent Thad Faucher in part because Faucher urged him to. Accept the team’s olive branch. Westbrook doesn’t feel like he’s interested in playing another season for the Lakers. So why couldn’t the group find a satisfactory trade?

We can at least pay lip service to the idea that the Lakers want Westbrook back. New head coach Darwin Hamm certainly wanted the world to believe that Introductory Journal In the conference call he said he has a “clear plan” on how to use the former MVP. If the Lakers liked the idea of ​​adding Westbrook to their basketball team, of course, these trade rumors wouldn’t have lasted five months. After Westbrook’s season, no one will.

Price is a reasonable explanation. It was widely reported that Indiana wanted two first-round picks from the Lakers to consider a package built around Turner and Buddy Hield. The Lakers aren’t willing to meet that price. But the Bogdanovic trade muddies that idea a bit. The Pistons were able to acquire him without giving up a first-round pick. Andy Larson Salt Lake Tribune The Jazz could receive a first-round pick from other teams, but such a deal would involve a long-term salary cap. Westbrook is under expiring contract. At the very least, this suggests that if the Lakers want to trade with Utah for a single pick, they can keep it. They didn’t, and if they never wanted to give up a pick, they should have known from the start that they could never trade Westbrook.

It was widely reported that the Lakers’ unwillingness to take on a long-term salary was a major factor in the Westbrook trade. Athlete Sam Amick and Jovan Buha The Lakers are reportedly looking to add star-level talent through cap space through 2023 free agency rather than giving up their draft picks for immediate upgrades, but while that vision may appear on the surface, the reality isn’t quite as appealing. . The Lakers can’t make a cap hit next summer.

The projected cap hit for the 2023-24 season is $134 million. LeBron James and Anthony Davis alone will make a combined $87.5 million. Even if they shed every other player and cap hit on their books, the 10 incomplete roster charges the Lakers would leave with their two stars would put about $99 million on the books. $35 million or so in cap space, a figure that sounds enticing at first glance, but actually means pay cuts to Kyrie Irving and Khris Middleton. Andrew Wiggins is right around that number now and can credibly demand a substantial raise. Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole were mentioned as potential targets by Buha and Amick, but both will be restricted free agents. Fred VanVliet may be the best player the Lakers can sign in unrestricted free agency to a market value contract. Draymond Green could also be available through a player option, but the Lakers have tried to add the aging shooter. It didn’t go well.

With all of this in mind, does it make sense for the Lakers to shed LeBron last season for prime space that doesn’t seem particularly valuable? No… until you recognize the secondary value of gap space. From a practical standpoint, it’s almost impossible to pay luxury tax when you’re operating below the salary threshold. Creating cap space means giving up your rights to expensive free agents. Once you sign a new one, you’ll rarely have the residual rights you need to spend above tax or the remaining salary to trade your way into the tax bracket.

The Lakers have been taxing the past two seasons. Except for something drastic, they’ll pay it back this season. So why do it for the 2023-24 season? Repeater penalty. If a team has paid the tax in three of the previous four seasons, it is subject to a more punitive repeater penalty. Basically, it adds a dollar for every dollar you spend over the tax line. The Lakers paid an estimated $202 million in combined salary and taxes last season. If they are deemed repeat offenders, that rises to about $222 million. with reports The new CBA could create a steep luxury tax, and that bump could be even bigger come next season.

Reaching the tax cap will be harder next season than it has been in years past because of how quickly the cap is rising. The projected tax number for the 2023-24 season is $162 million. But the salary is increasing. For example, imagine the Lakers traded with Indiana for Turner and Hield. Add Hield’s $19.3 million to what James and Davis are slated to make, and you’re already at nearly $107 million. Turner should be extended, and while he doesn’t approach the max contract DeAndre Ayton just signed, the $100 million deal Jared Allen signed in Cleveland before becoming an All-Star might be a better analog. Adjust the contract for inflation and Turner will make about $24 million a year. Already, that number puts the Lakers at more than $130 million, accounting for just four players.

From that perspective, if you plan to hold on to expiring contracts, they will have long-term costs. The Lakers aren’t particularly interested in giving away first-round picks to players like Bogdanovic, Clarkson and Malik Beasley if tax concerns keep them out of Los Angeles after one season. They already gave up Daleon Harden-Tucker to get Patrick Beverley, a player they would have to waive next season to increase cap space. Austin Reaves will have enough cap space to remain in restricted free agency after spending cap space, and his final salary will count toward the luxury tax line.

All of this puts the Lakers in a difficult position to trade for expiring salary, especially from an optical perspective. They could keep all of the upcoming free agents after trading for them, just like they kept Reaves and Beverley … but doing so not only avoids cap space, but also infringes on approaching the tax line. They could let some of those players walk, but doing so would not only represent wasted assets, but would also anger fans The NBA’s third most valuable franchise It has to spend according to its substantial revenue. Building for cap space, which in all likelihood takes the luxury tax off the table entirely, solves this problem at the expense of the 2022-23 season.

The 2022-23 season doesn’t seem like a fair price to pay for future tax savings, when the team that pays those taxes earns revenue. Estimated $150 million per year Not only in local TV revenue, but the Lakers aren’t performing as well as their big-market rivals. Forget matching payroll with the Clippers, Warriors and Nets, they’re in a different financial stratosphere than any other sport because of the wealth of their owners and, in Golden State’s case especially, its privately owned revenue. Arena. The Lakers spent less on their roster than the smaller-market Milwaukee Bucks did.

That season began when star defenseman Alex Caruso was let go to Chicago without compensation Caruso’s willingness to take less And stay that way. They often start seasons with an empty roster spot as a cost-cutting ploy. They only offered championship-winning coach Frank Vogel a one-year extension after declining to offer him a three-year contract (or tie-up) during the 2019 coaching search.

None of this is to say that the Lakers are cheap by typical NBA standards. It’s an acknowledgment that they operate within a budget that franchisees in similar markets don’t appear to have. Given the budget limitations they’ve shown in recent years, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers willingly paying the repeater tax.

Is that the only reason they kept Russell Westbrook? Almost certainly not. But given the way the Lakers have performed over the past few years, the repeater tax may have been a factor in how they chose to build this roster. Trading Westbrook would be costly in the distant future, but it would have cost dollars temporarily, and ultimately, it appears the Lakers decided they weren’t willing to pay either for a chance to compete this season.

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