The Los Angeles Lakers are scrambling to reshape the parameters of the Anthony Davis trade with New Orleans and create the capacity for $32 million-plus in salary-cap space when the free-agent moratorium ends on July 6, league sources told ESPN.
The Lakers were engaging additional teams on Tuesday to take on the contracts of three of the remaining five players on the team’s roster — Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones — league sources said. Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James are the only other two Lakers remaining on the team’s end-of-season roster.
The Lakers are pursuing the purchase of second-round picks in Thursday’s NBA draft, understanding they need avenues to acquire inexpensive talent and contracts that will count only as minimum salaries against the cap, league sources said.
The Lakers probably would need to incentivize the trading of those salaries with cash or draft considerations. Wagner, the No. 25 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, probably has the most value of the three players.
Teams are allowed to pay as much as $5.2 million to buy draft picks in a calendar year. Los Angeles paid $1.5 million as part of a deal to acquire Bonga in July, limiting the Lakers to $3.7 million in financial trades.
Still, the $3.7 million replenishes to $5.6 million once the salary cap resets on June 30. The Lakers could agree to a trade on draft night Thursday but not finalize it until July 6 if the directive is to use more than the $3.7 million available.
The Lakers need those contracts moved to come within 125% of Davis’ salary — which would be the difference between $23.7 million and $32.5 million in space when the trade is finalized July 6.
If Davis doesn’t waive his $4.1 million trade bonus, the Lakers-Pelicans trade wouldn’t be allowed even if Los Angeles finds a third team for the players not included in the original deal with New Orleans.
The Lakers would have to wait until July 30 to have the maximum cap space — unless they were willing to incentivize New Orleans to agree to delay the completion of the trade.