The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly agreed on a deal to acquire Russell Westbrook for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and the 21st overall pick in the 2021 draft. This trade comes as a huge surprise after nearly a week of speculation that the Lakers were in serious talks with the Sacramento Kings on a trade for Buddy Hield featuring Kuzma. It’s especially surprising considering it was reported that the Lakers were moving forward on a trade for Hield minutes before the Westbrook trade was reported.
Here’s where the Lakers roster stands now going forward salary cap-wise, in regards to Buddy Hield, and how expensive the roster could potentially get:
The Lakers will not operate under a hard cap
The Lakers were linked to many free agents that most likely would've required a sign-and-trade to be acquired on a reasonable contract. Such a sign-and-trade would've hard-capped the Lakers, meaning they wouldn't be able to have a payroll higher than the projected $143 million amount. Now the Lakers are just $12.6 million below the hard cap with just five players on the roster. It will be impossible for them to operate under a hard cap while factoring in potential new deals for Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker. The Lakers will also have the taxpayer mid-level exception projected at $5.9 million to offer.
Can the Lakers still acquire Buddy Hield?
A trade for Buddy Hield is still possible, but it would most likely have to get a free agent with full Bird rights included as part of a sign-and-trade for Hield, such as Dennis Schroder. Such sign-and-trade discussions cannot begin until free agency commences on August 2. One possibility is trading Schroder straight up for Hield. An $18.6 million starting salary matches Hield's $23 million salary. Anything higher reduces his outgoing salary to $15.5 million due to Base Year Compensation. The Lakers could include Alfonzo McKinnie on a partially guaranteed amount if Hield's likely incentives upon being traded to the Lakers require a bit more salary matching. However, the Kings don't have a fit for Schroder for the type of salary he could command. More realistically, the Lakers can get Hield if this trade for Westbrook with the Wizards gets expanded into a three-team deal with the Kings. Schroder would still have to be involved likely at that $18.6 million starting salary amount, but he can be rerouted to the Wizards or a fourth interested team. Connecting the dots, perhaps the Kings could get still get Kuzma or Harrell while the Wizards get Caldwell-Pope, Schroder, and McKinnie.
How expensive will the Lakers be this year?
This all depends on what the final roster looks like, but it might be best to see what could be one the most expensive scenarios they could be looking at. The Lakers could still get Hield if the trade with Washington expands and involves Schroder. On top of that, the Lakers could still look to bring back Caruso and Horton-Tucker on starting salaries at around the $9.5 million mid-level exception. They could also look to use the taxpayer mid-level on another veteran. If the Lakers do all those things, they could have a luxury tax payment reaching close to $200 million after filling out the rest of the roster with veteran minimum contracts. That would make the 2021-22 Lakers roster cost over $380 million in combined payroll and luxury tax payments. It will be interesting to see just how much the Lakers are willing to spend on this roster. [listicle id=1431567]