The last team that expected to help the Los Angeles Lakers clear cap space to potentially sign LeBron James was the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But after trading Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers, the Lakers cleared a cumbersome contract. They no longer owe long-term money to Clarkson and instead brought in two expiring deals in Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye.
This is a perfect scenario for the front office in Los Angeles as they suddenly have superfluous cap room for next season, according to Bobby Marks (via ESPN):
“The Lakers now project to have $46.9M in room this summer. The cap space will increase to $69M if they do not bring back Julius Randle and stretch the $37M owed to Luol Deng over 5 years.”
The draft pick they received from Cleveland (as well as Randle) can help get rid of the large contract owed to Luol Deng if they do not stretch his salary.
Recent reports suggested the Lakers shifted their focus to the free agency class in 2019. But this was likely because they did not think they would have enough financial flexibility to bring in two superstars this offseason, which is presumably needed to sign James.
This trade, however, does give Los Angeles a backup plan if they are not able to lure two max contracts this offseason. They could bring back a myriad of players on one-year deals, including even Julius Randle.
If they go this route, Marks estimates they would have approximately $79 million to lure others top players like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler or even Klay Thompson.
Not only did the Lakers give themselves more flexibility but they also got a first-round pick from the Cavaliers as well. Los Angeles has drafted very well in the later half of the first-round, selecting Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart last year.
Both players (as well as the new pick from Cleveland if they keep it) will be on cheap rookie deals as they continue the franchise rebuild.