July 23, 2024
 Los Angeles Lakers’ 2024 offseason is off to an encouraging start.

They hired a bright young coach in JJ Redick. They landed top-10 prospect Dalton Knecht with the No. 17 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. They made history by uniting LeBron James with his eldest son, Bronny James, with their No. 55 selection. D’Angelo Russell, possibly the biggest domino of their offseason, opted in, giving them a mid-sized expiring contract to potentially trade.

Then, on Saturday, nearly five hours ahead of a 5 p.m. (ET) deadline, LeBron James opted out of his contract with the intention of re-signing with the Lakers, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The Athletic previously reported the Lakers want James to return and were open to offering him whatever type of contract he prefers.

James opting out is another win for the Lakers, which could save at least $1.5 million on their cap sheet by him not exercising his $51.4 million player option for next season. (The trade-off for James is he’s eligible to add a no-trade clause to his contract, which would allow him to control his future.)

James might be willing to take an even steeper pay cut on top of that if it allows the Lakers to open up the non-taxpayer midlevel exception (worth approximately $12.9 million) for the right types of players, according to Bleacher Report. James’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, told ESPN his client would only be willing to take a discount for an “impact player,” with James Harden, Klay Thompson and Jonas Valančiūnas as reported names who’d fit the bill. The non-taxpayer midlevel exception would be a significant pay cut for Harden and Thompson, in particular.

However, there is mutual interest between the Lakers and Thompson, as The Athletic’s Charania and Anthony Slater first reported.

Thompson, a Southern California native, is the son of Mychal Thompson, who played for the Showtime Lakers from 1987 through 1991 and is the team’s current radio color commentator. The younger Thompson, 34, is a four-time NBA champion and one of the greatest shooters of all time. Thompson has spent his 13 pro seasons with the Golden State Warriors, but the relationship has fractured to the point where Thompson is likely to leave. The Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and LA Clippers are all pursuing him.

If James takes a discount for the Lakers to access their full non-taxpayer midlevel exception, the Lakers will be hard-capped at the first apron of $178.7 million. That means James would have to take a $16-plus million discount with his starting salary at about just over $33 million for the 2024-25 season. The most likely pay cut scenario would be James signing a two-year deal with a player option for 2025-26, allowing him to opt out in 2025 and re-sign for more money, according to league sources. The Lakers also could perform a smaller salary-dump trade (or two) to create more financial wiggle room and allow James to take a smaller decrease.Highest paid players in Los Angeles Lakers history

If the Lakers don’t land a star or high-level starter with their non-taxpayer midlevel exception, James will sign the max, according to ESPN. If LeBron re-signs at his max for 2024-25 (approximately $49.9 million), the Lakers will have roughly $182.3 million in committed salary. That puts them less than $8 million under the second apron ($189.5 million). James also wants to have his contract resolved before he starts practicing at the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball minicamp on July 6 in Las Vegas.

Regardless of what happens with James, the Lakers are well-positioned to upgrade their roster if they so choose. The proverbial ball is in their court regarding how the rest of this offseason unfolds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *