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.
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?
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.
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.
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.