Luol Deng

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Report: Lakers confident they can trade Jordan Clarkson to clear cap space next summer

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The Lakers have made little secret of their desire to chase – maybe even two – max free agents next summer. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins could all be available.

Three Two big problems:

The Lakers unloaded Mozgov’s long-term deal on the Nets, but Deng (guaranteed $54 million over the  next three years) and Clarkson (guaranteed $37.5 over the next three years) remain as impediments to cap space.

LeBron and Westbrook can each earn 35% of the salary cap. George and Cousins can each earn 30% of the salary cap. So, to lure two of them, the Lakers will need 60%-70% of the cap available.

If the Lakers renounce all their free agents – including Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Julius Randle – and dump Deng, their percentage of the cap available projects to be about 63%.

But that wouldn’t be enough for a max duo that includes LeBron and/or Westbrook. And it’d take a significant sweetener for another team to take Deng.

On the other hand, trading Clarkson would likely be far easier. If the Lakers dump him and stretch Deng, they’d project to have 67% of the cap available. With Ivica Zubac‘s 2018-19 salary unguaranteed and Thomas Bryant‘s behind a team option, that’s within striking distance of 70% – especially considering the exact salary cap won’t be determined until next summer. For now, we’re relying on estimates.

How viable is that path?

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

One person within the organization who isn’t permitted to speak publicly on the subject told Bleacher Report the team is confident it can move Clarkson if needed to open space.

The implication seems to be the Lakers believe they could give away Clarkson without attaching a sweetener.

I’m skeptical.

Even next summer, Clarkson will still be owed $12,500,000 and $13,437,500 the following two seasons. That’s a lot in a tighter cap environment.

Clarkson can get to his spots inside the arc, but he doesn’t draw enough fouls or make enough 3-pointers. It’s tough to score efficiently while so reliant on 2-point jumpers. Clarkson is also a poor defender, and he hasn’t maintain the distributing ability he showed as a rookie.

He could rehab his value with a strong season – especially if he plays more point guard, where the Lakers have just Lonzo Ball and Tyler Ennis.

Still, I think the most likely question is: How much must the Lakers attach to Clarkson to dump him? The odds are against them being able to give him away without also surrendering positive assets.

If Clarkson plays well enough that the Lakers must include only moderate assets to dump him and the salary cap lands high enough that unloading Clarkson plus stretching Deng leaves 70% of the cap open, that’d be a massive win for the Lakers.

Then, they “just” have to convince two of LeBron, Westbrook, George and Cousins to come to Los Angeles.

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.

DeMarcus Cousins, Kristaps Porzingis, six All-Stars to play in NBA Africa Game

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NEW YORK (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks will play for Team World in the NBA Africa Game.

Dirk Nowitzki and Kemba Walker had already been chosen as captains for Team World. The squad includes Portland’s CJ McCollum, Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Denver’s Wilson Chandler, New York’s Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa, who most recently played with Phoenix.

The rosters were announced Thursday for the second game featuring players born in Africa and second-generation African players against a team from the rest of the world. It will be played Aug. 5 in Johannesburg.

Team Africa, captained by Luol Deng and Thabo Sefolosha, will be rounded out by Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder, Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo, Houston’s Clint Capela, Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka, Luc Mbah a Moute, most recently with the Clippers, Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay and Dallas’ Salah Mejri. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, from Cameroon, is on the roster but won’t play because he is recovering from injury.

The game will be played in support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa.

Paul George: Oklahoma City ‘feels like home’

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The Lakers have been one of the worst teams over the last few years. They’re probably too young to improve much next season. Luol Deng‘s contract gets in the way of clearing cap space for two max free agents next summer.

But they’re Paul George‘s hometown team.

That, with the intertangled fact of playing in a huge market, was always going to be their biggest selling point in the George sweepstakes.

They might not hold exclusive rights on that hometown feeling, though. (And I’m not talking about the Clippers.)

Oklahoma City fans enthusiastically greeted George at the airport, and the Thunder made him feel even more welcome before his introductory press conference.

George:

It’s been awesome. It’s really been awesome. You can’t script this up any other way of saying that this has really been an unbelievable trip here. I’ve been wild ever since we landed. I got a real welcoming, and this feels like home.

George also said all the expected things about focusing on this season, not free agency. And I believe him. Why rush this choice before it must be made? George will spend the season forming his opinion of the Thunder. There’s much more to assess than day one.

A key question: How will George play with Russell Westbrook? Working off the ball-dominant point guard was sometimes difficult for Oklahoma City’s last star forward, Kevin Durant, who spoke to George after the trade.

It sounds as if George is trying to keep an open mind.

George:

What KD and Russ had, from my understanding, was nothing major. Guys, brothers necessarily – you fight. This is a job where you want the best out of everybody, and you’re going to bump heads. That’s as far as I know – and as far as I care to know – about their relationship.

But George isn’t entering the season with a completely blank slate. He’s already forming impressions of Oklahoma City, clearly positive ones.

It’ll still matter how the Thunder and Lakers – and other potential suitors – play this year. It’ll still matter whether the Lakers can clear cap room to sign two stars without infringing on their young core.

But, at this point in its year-long recruitment of George, Oklahoma City should feel as optimistic as can be.

Report: Lakers not willing to give up players/picks needed dump Mozgov, Deng contracts

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The Lakers had money to spend last year and they spent it: four-years, $64 million for Timofey Mozgov, four-year, $72 million for Luol Deng. The idea was they would contribute a little now as the young Lakers grew, be leaders in the locker room, then in a couple of years the Lakers could package the rest of those contracts in deals to get the stars they wanted.

Except it was a major overpay and miscalculation about what Mozgov and Deng could contribute. Those were two of the worst contracts given out last free agency.

The Lakers might like to get those contracts off the books, but they aren’t willing to pay the price in sweeteners yet to get the job done. That according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Well of course teams are asking for a sweetener to take on those deals. Why would they just take on those massive contracts, to help out Magic Johnson because he’s new?

At some point over the next season the Lakers will decide which players do not fit with their long-term plans as well, and then those players may be used as sweeteners in a deal to move those salaries. But the Lakers clearly are not there yet.