The first major deal ahead of this year’s trade deadline has been made. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers acquired Rui Hachimura from the Wizards for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks.
Below is an analysis of the deal and the motivation behind it for both teams.
How it impacts the Lakers
The Lakers traded three second-round picks to take a flier on Hachimura over the second half of the season. If he plays well, the Lakers can re-sign him, which is their plan, according to Wojnarowski. He is set to enter restricted free agency provided they tender him a $7.7 million qualifying offer. The Lakers projected luxury tax penalty rose slightly from this deal and currently sits at $44.2 million.
The bigger aspect of this deal yet to be determined is how this impacts their offseason plans. The Lakers are projected to have $30 million in cap space this coming offseason, but re-signing Hachimura would cut into that amount significantly. In fact, the amount that could be deducted could be high enough to take them out of the cap space derby and have them operate as an over-the-cap team.
As argued last week, there are benefits for the Lakers to trade for players that they would like to have on the roster next year now instead of taking their chances in free agency. They could trade for more players like Hachimura on expiring contracts and re-sign them this offseason with their Bird rights if they fit in well this season. They could also trade for players under contract for next season, which would help keep them in the mix for July trades. Depending on the types of long-term contracts they take back, perhaps they can even get assets attached.
For now, cap space is still an option since they could let Hachimura walk if it doesn’t work out with him. But the Lakers could look to trade other expiring contracts like Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley for multiple players who fit the criteria mentioned above.
As an over-the-cap team, they could go into the season with more role players on mid-sized deals while also being able to re-sign players like Hachimura, Lonnie Walker, Austin Reaves, and Wenyen Gabriel. They could also use a larger mid-level exception (MLE) amount to sign someone, either the $11.4 million non-taxpayer or the $7 million taxpayer, versus the $5.8 million room mid-level exception.
How it impacts the Wizards
This trade signals that Washington will remain competitive despite holding the league’s sixth-worst record. It also signals Washington intends to re-sign Kyle Kuzma this offseason, which has been previously reported by HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. Trading Hachimura now helps clear a hurdle with re-signing Kuzma.
The Wizards are facing a tax crunch heading into next season, and Hachimura ended up being a casualty of it. The pending player options of Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis complicate their cap sheet for next season, and bringing back both of them could put them right at the tax before factoring in a new deal for Hachimura. By trading Hachimura now, they get positive value ahead of his free agency while not having to worry about him picking up his $7.7 million qualifying offer.
As for the current season, this trade gives them much-needed breathing room below the luxury tax. They are now $1.4 million below, which is more than enough space for them to convert second-year guard Jordan Goodwin – which our own Michael Scotto mentioned in our HoopsHype notebook last week – onto the regular season roster while avoiding the tax. They still have $2.5 million of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception remaining, which they could use to give Goodwin more than the prorated minimum salary for this year and up to three additional years. The Wizards also will generate a $6.3 million trade exception.
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