How a repeat tax looms over Lakers failure to trade Russell Westbrook

The events of the past week have dealt a severe blow to thousands of Los Angeles Lakers Fans are eagerly awaiting the Russell Westbrook trade. It started on Wednesday, when Pacers General Manager Chad Buchanan open That Miles Turner will start the season in Indiana. The team managers are hardly known for their honesty, but with training camps set to start next week, it’s hard to imagine he was cheating. By day, Utah trade Bojan Bogdanovic, centerpiece of potential Westbrook deal, to Detroit Pistons. Never say never in the modern NBA, but with Utah virtually out of the race and Indiana publicly waning, it certainly looks as if Westbrook will start the season in purple and gold.

This result felt incomprehensible in April, when Westbrook presented One of the most controversial interviews In the history of the NBA. The team made every attempt publicly to welcome him back into the fold, but broke up with old agent Thad Foucher in part because Foucher urged him to. Kiss the team olive branch. It doesn’t look like Westbrook is excited to play another season with the Lakers. So why couldn’t the team find a satisfactory deal?

We can at least pay lip service to the idea that the Lakers wanted Westbrook back. New coach Darvin Hamm sure wanted the world to believe it introductory press Conference when he claimed to have a “clear plan” on how to use the former MVP. Of course, this trade rumor wouldn’t last for five months if the Lakers liked the idea of ​​having Westbrook on their basketball team. After the season Westbrook just had, no one did.

The price is a reasonable explanation. It was widely reported that Indiana wanted two first-round picks from the Lakers to consider a package built around Turner and Buddy Hield. The Lakers don’t seem willing to meet that price. But Bogdanovic’s trade muddies the idea a bit. The Pistons managed to get it without giving up a single pick from the first round. Andy Larsen from The Salt Lake Tribune I mentioned that Jazz She could have gotten a first-round pick from the other teams, but any such deal would have included a long-term salary. Westbrook in an expired deal. At the very least, this suggests that if the Lakers want to make a deal with Utah to pick one, they probably will. They didn’t, and if they were never willing to give up picking one, they should have known from the start that they would never be able to trade Westbrook at all.

It was widely reported that one of the sticking points was that the Lakers did not want a long-term salary in the Westbrook deal. Sam Amic of Athletic and Jovan Poha She mentioned that the Lakers are hoping to add star-level talent across the free agency space in 2023 rather than give up their picks for immediate promotions, but while that vision may surface, the reality isn’t quite so rosy. . The Lakers literally can’t create maximum roof space next summer.

The projected cap for the 2023-24 season is $134 million. LeBron James and Anthony Davis alone would make $87.5 million. Even if they ditched every other player and shut down their books, the ten incomplete fees that would be left with the Lakers along with their two superstars would take them to about $99 million in books. That’s $35 million or so in cover space, a number that seems tempting at first glance, but actually represents pay cuts to Kyrie Irving and Khris Middleton. Andrew Wiggins is aware of that number now and can credibly claim a substantial premium. Tyler Hero and Jordan Paul have been mentioned by Poha and Amec as potential targets, but both would be a restricted free agent. Fred Vanfleet is probably the best player likely to reach an unrestricted free agency that the Lakers can sign to a market value contract. Draymond Green may also be available via player option, but the Lakers have tried to add an older non-shooter player. Things did not go well.

With all this in mind, does it really seem to make sense for the Lakers to stray from what might be LeBron’s final season major championship for cover space that doesn’t seem particularly valuable? No… until you know the secondary value of the cover area. In practice, it is almost impossible to pay a luxury tax when you are working under the salary cap. Creating a roof space usually means giving away rights to your pricey free agents. Once you sign new contracts, you rarely have the remaining rights needed to spend above the limit or the remaining salary to trade your way into tax territory.

The Lakers have paid the tax for the past two seasons. Except for something drastic, they’ll be pushing it again this season. So why is dodging him for the 2023-24 season important? Repeated penalty. When a team has paid tax in three of the previous four seasons, it is subject to a very double penalty. Essentially, it adds $1 for every dollar you spend above the tax line on top of your already tax bill. The Lakers paid an estimated $202 million in combined salaries and taxes last season. Were they counted as repeat offenders, that total jumps to about $222 million.

Reaching the tax cap will be more difficult next season than it has been in past years due to the speed with which the cap rises. The expected tax figure for the 2023-24 season is $162 million. But salaries are piling up. Imagine, for example, that the Lakers made a trade with Indiana for Turner and Heald. Add $19.3 million from Hield to what James and Davis will make and you’ll actually get close to $107 million. Turner will need to extend, and while he won’t be close to the maximum deal DeAndre Ayton just signed, a fairer analog may be the $100 million deal that Garrett Allen signed in Cleveland before he became an All-Star. Adjust this contract for inflation and Turner will come in at about $24 million annually. Already, that number puts the Lakers above $130 million with just four players counted.

From this perspective, expired contracts carry a long-term cost if you plan to hold them. It’s possible that the Lakers weren’t particularly eager to give up first-round picks for players like Bogdanovich, Clarkson and owner Paisley if tax concerns were to lead them out of Los Angeles after just one season. They’ve already given up Tallinn Horton Tucker to get Patrick Beverly, the player they’ll need to give up next season to increase cover space. While Austin Reeves will have a cap low enough to keep in restricted free agency even after spending cap space, his final salary will count toward the luxury tax line.

All of this means that trading for expired salaries would have put the Lakers in a difficult position, especially from an optics perspective. They can keep all those impending free agents after trading in their favor just as they can keep Reaves and Beverley… but doing so will not only mean avoiding cap space, but also getting close and possibly over taxing. They can let some of these players walk, but doing so would not only represent wasted assets, but could anger the fan base that expects The 3rd Most Valuable NBA Franchise To spend it according to its large revenue. Building for cover space, which in all likelihood removes the luxury tax from the table entirely, solves this problem at the expense of the 2022-23 season.

The 2022-23 season does not appear to be a fair price to pay for future tax savings when the team paying those taxes earns an amount 150 million dollars annually In local television revenue only, the Lakers do not perform like their competitors in the big market. Forgetting to match payroll with clippersAnd the the Warriors And the Networks, who operate in a financial field different from the rest of the sport due to the wealth of the owners and, in the case of Golden State specifically, the revenue it can generate through its privately owned arena. The Lakers spent less on their rosters than the mini market Milwaukee Bucks I did it in what was ostensibly the all-in season.

That season started when they let star defender Alex Caruso leave for Chicago without compensation though Caruso’s willingness to take less and remain. They often start the seasons with an empty spot on the menu as a cost-cutting maneuver. They have given Championship-winning coach Frank Vogel a one-year extension after they had already refused to give him (or Ty Lue) more than a three-year deal during their 2019 coaching hunt.

None of this indicates that the Lakers are cheap by typical NBA standards. It is an acknowledgment that they are operating within a budget that franchises in similar markets do not seem to work on. Given the budget constraints they’ve demonstrated in recent years, it’s simply hard to imagine the Lakers eagerly paying the repeater tax.

Is that the only reason they kept Russell Westbrook? Almost certainly not. But given the way the Lakers have operated over the past few years, it’s possible that the repeater tax was a factor in how they chose to build this roster. Trading Westbrook would have cost picks in the distant future, but it would also have cost bucks in the meantime, and in the end, it looks like the Lakers decided they weren’t willing to pay both for the chance to compete this season.

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