Undrafted Kendrick Nunn, after scoring 15 points per game playing two seasons with the Heat, might have dreamed of a bigger contract in free agency.
He settled for just a $5 million salary from the Lakers last summer.
The contract included a player option for next season, insurance for Nunn. But the deal was clearly designed to allow him to re-enter free agency this summer.
Yet, after missing the entire season with a knee injury, Nunn will take the guaranteed money.
Nunn is expected to pick up his $5.25 million player option for next season, sources said
This is a fascinating decision on multiple levels.
Could Nunn have gotten more money by opting out?
Nunn had his market cooled last summer by restricted free agency. He signed with the Lakers only after the Heat pulled his qualifying offer late in the process. The Knicks and at least one other team reportedly made Nunn larger offers than what he took from Los Angeles.
So, while Nunn didn’t boost his stock by missing the season, he might have gotten a raise by opting out.
He could have even held internal leverage with the capped-out Lakers, who could’ve given him a $6 million salary through Non-Bird Rights. That’s money Los Angeles wouldn’t have had available to spend elsewhere, though the luxury tax is a concern.
Did the Lakers want Nunn to opt in or out?
Of course, the Lakers might see a player who contributed nothing all year and value him even lower. But perhaps they still view him as on a positive-value contract. Last season was a sunk cost. The 26-year-old didn’t suddenly lose all his talent going forward.
If nothing else, Nunn’s expiring contract could be useful in a trade. Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker are the only Lakers with middling salaries – earning less than maxed-out LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook and more than the minimum.
What advice is Nunn getting?
After signing with Los Angeles, Nunn hired Rich Paul. The agent – who represents LeBron and Davis – has both leverage over the Lakers (as he did over the Cavaliers previously) and unique ties to the Lakers.
What if LeBron wanted Nunn staying in Los Angeles? Even if Nunn isn’t necessarily worth $5.25 million, he’s probably better than whoever else the Lakers would get for the minimum. LeBron doesn’t have pay the excess cost. He just wants the optimized roster. Plus, there’s Nunn’s trade usefulness.
Then again, Nunn might have drawn a higher salary by opting out. See above.
Would Paul have gone against the wishes of his premier client, even if he thought Nunn would’ve been better off opting out?
Paul is far from alone among agents in facing conflicts of interest. But the situation can be thorny, nonetheless.
Of course, Nunn was aware of Paul’s LeBron connection when hiring the agent. At least this isn’t an undisclosed conflict.