How Trade Deadline Haul Impacts Los Angeles Lakers' 2023 Offseason

Eric Pincus @ @EricPincus Featured Columnist I February 14, 2023

D'Angelo Russell.
D'Angelo Russell. Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

After a busy trade season, the Los Angeles Lakers have given themselves a credible chance in the Western Conference. As the 13th-place team, the Lakers have a substantiative hole to climb out of, but any finish in the top 10 gives the franchise playoff potential.

The team made significant changes at the deadline, jettisoning Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones. That's after sending Kendrick Nunn to the Washington Wizards in late January for Rui Hachimura.

Along with Hachimura, the additions of D'Angelo Russell, Mo Bamba, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Davon Reed impact the present and the future beyond the 2022-23 campaign. Who has the potential to stick long-term? How will the franchise approach the offseason?

Player Statuses After the Season

Malik Beasley.
Malik Beasley. Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the trades, the Lakers had only three players locked in for next season: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Max Christie—and that hasn't changed.

The team will have three restricted free agents: Austin Reaves, Scotty Pippen Jr. (currently on a two-way contract) and Hachimura. L.A. will have the right of first refusal should any teams seek to poach them this summer. Notably, Reaves is subject to the "Arenas provision," which limits how much other franchises can issue in an offer sheet.

Four players have non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed salaries: Bamba ($10.3 million), Vanderbilt ($4.7 million with $300,000 guaranteed), Reed ($2,066,585) and two-way Cole Swider ($50,000 guaranteed). The deadlines (except for Swider) range from soon after the season to early July—although a cut-down date can be pushed back if the player agrees to do so.

Before the end of June, Los Angeles must decide on Malik Beasley's $16.5 million team option. The rest will be unrestricted. The Lakers will have full Bird rights for Russell, Hachimura and Beasley (if opted out). Wenyen Gabriel and Reaves have early Bird rights, which should max out in the $11-12 million range. The rest have non-Bird rights, which allow for a raise of up to 20 percent. For instance, the Lakers could re-sign Lonnie Walker IV for a starting salary of up to $7.8 million via his rights.

Who Can be Traded Next, and When?

Mo Bamba.
Mo Bamba. Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Now that the February 9 deadline has expired, the Lakers can get back to making deals after their 2022-23 season (mid-April to as late as June if they advance to the NBA Finals).

None of the expiring players can be traded unless by sign-and-trade (no earlier than July 6). That limits the list to James, Davis, Bamba, Vanderbilt, Reed and Swider. Beasley can only be dealt if he is opted into his final season (locking in his full salary for the year).

But dealing Bamba, Vanderbilt or Reed is a little more complex, as only guaranteed money is included in trade as outgoing salary. For example, if the Lakers traded Vanderbilt, his outgoing salary would be $300,000—while an incoming team would need to account for his entire $4.7 million. Still, that's not necessarily prohibitive as L.A. can increase a player's guarantee to get a deal done, similar to what the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers executed last summer with Danilo Gallinari (to the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray) and Danny Green (to the Memphis Grizzlies for De'Anthony Melton).

How Much Cap Room?

LeBron James, Anthony Davis.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If the franchise wanted to explore free agency, it could let almost everyone (but James and Davis) leave. With the NBA projecting a $134 million salary cap, the Lakers would get to about $31.6 million in cap space, depending on their first-round pick, which will be the lower selection between their own and that of the New Orleans Pelicans.

If L.A. traded its pick after the draft and Christie without bringing any salary back, the team could top out at about $35.5 million. Say the Lakers were intent on bringing in James' former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving. The Purple and Gold would be far from the $46.9 million starting salary the Dallas Mavericks can offer.

For each player the Lakers might want to keep, like Russell, Hachimura and Reaves, the cap room shrinks considerably (functionally to zero with all three). If the team finishes the season well, expect L.A. to stay over the salary cap in July. It doesn't seem practical to attempt to lure a star talent given the players the team would need to lose to do so.

What About the Tax?

Rob Pelinka.
Rob Pelinka. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The current luxury tax projection for 2023-24 is $162 million. The Lakers, who will be considered a repeat tax offender, could face a significant penalty if payroll climbs too high.

For instance, $190 million in player salaries would trigger an additional $104.5 million tax hit. If Russell, Hachimura and Reaves combine to earn $50 million and the team keeps Bamba and Vanderbilt, L.A. could field a roster at about $170-$175 million. That's assuming Beasley is gone and the rest of the team is filled with minimum players and the 2023 first-round pick.

For perspective, the tax on $170 million would be $20.8 million, but adding that extra $5 million at $175 million would push the penalty to $36.8 million.

The tax will factor into how the Lakers build their roster next season, but it's not prohibitive. The "apron" or hard cap projects to be $169 million, so they would likely be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception of roughly $7 million.

L.A. could get to the non-taxpayer mid-level ($11.4 million) and bi-annual exception (4.4 million) by reducing payroll, but that would be in lieu of potential returnees. Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade, which triggers the hard cap, could also make building out the roster difficult with a payroll limit of $169 million.

Other Details

The Lakers cannot trade their 2023 first-rounder before the draft but can once the pick is made.

Because L.A. traded its 2027 first and still owes another (2024 or 2025) to the Pelicans, it can only send out its 2029 first before the draft. After the draft, the 2030 pick becomes available, but only one of 2029 or 2030 can be traded (Stepien rule).

Beasley, if opted out, and Russell are extension-eligible before July but limited to just two additional years with 5 percent raises. Vanderbilt will be extension-eligible in September. Beasley, if opted in, can extend in July.