Summer agenda: Lakers have some young talent, but need to stick to plan

Bobby Marks
The Vertical
The Lakers have a young coach in Luke Walton and young players such as, from left, Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

Previous teams in the series: Nets and Suns | Timberwolves and 76ers | Magic and Kings | Hornets and Pelicans | Knicks and Nuggets

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Offseason focus

Can a team improve without adding a top-level free agent?

For the Lakers, a team that has a mix of former lottery picks and high-priced veteran players, the answer is yes.

However, to do so Los Angeles is going to need some luck on May 16 in the draft lottery.

The Lakers will have only the $8.4 million and $3.2 million exceptions to get help in free agency, so the team’s big offseason addition could depend on the draft.

The impact of the draft lottery

The Lakers could lose two potential lottery picks the night of the draft lottery.

If the Lakers fall outside of the top three selections, their own first-round pick will go to Philadelphia and a 2019 first will go to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard trade from 2013.

Cautious with cap space

The Lakers learned last offseason that cap space comes with responsibility. While cap space gives teams flexibility to improve their roster, using room to sign players to long-term contracts can be dangerous. The Lakers’ signings of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov last offseason didn’t work out, and now both players face uncertain futures with a combined cap hit of more than $33 million annually for the next three seasons.

The Lakers potentially could have $25 million in room this offseason and they need to be cautious, focusing on under-the-radar free agents that fit a need and perhaps overspending on one-year deals. The franchise needs to build a foundation and preserve room for the summer of 2018 when Paul George and Russell Westbrook could enter free agency.

Audit former draft picks

Player development is a critical because Los Angeles has five players on rookie contracts and could add two more this summer.

D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and Brandon Ingram are talented, but they each have questions heading into next season.

The franchise needs to identify what stage each player is at in his career and further develop their roles and skills.

Timofey Mozgov’s four-year, $64 million contract isn’t quite working out for the Lakers. (AP)

Summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                               2017-18                            Insider info
Luol Deng                                $17,190,000
Timofey Mozgov                     $15,280,000
Jordan Clarkson                      $11,562,500
Corey Brewer                            $7,579,366                    Extension eligible
Nick Young                               $5,668,667                  Player option June 21
D’Angelo Russell                      $5,562,360
Brandon Ingram                       $5,519,400
Julius Randle                            $4,149,242                 Rookie extension eligible
Larry Nance Jr.                          $1,471,382
Ivica Zubac                                $1,312,611

Non/partial                                 2017-18                        Guarantee date
Tarik Black                                $6,655,325                             July 3
David Nwaba                             $1,312,611                        Team option

FA cap hold                                2017-18                             FA status
Thomas Robinson                    $1,471,382                           Non-Bird
Tyler Ennis                                $2,666,707               Bird/salary restriction
Metta World Peace                   $1,471,382                          Early Bird

First-round cap hold                 2017-18
Projected No. 3 selection         $5,645,400
No. 28 selection                        $1,414,920

Salary table                                  2017
Guaranteed salaries              $75,295,528
Non-guaranteed                     $7,967,936
Tax variance                              $158,771
FA/draft cap holds                $12,669,791
Salaries: cap                          $95,933,255
Salaries: tax                           $83,422,235
Salary cap                             $101,000,000
Luxury tax                             $121,000,000
Cap space                               $5,066,745
Tax room                                $37,577,765

Projected cap space

The Lakers can choose two different paths when it comes to cap space this summer.

They can reserve room for the summer of 2018 when George and Westbrook will likely become free agents and continue to focus on player development.

If the Lakers choose to take the conservative approach, expect LA to follow the plan Miami implemented last July when the Heat preserved cap space but remained competitive by signing players to one-year contracts and continuing to develop their young talent.

If the Lakers are active in free agency and go hunting for a big name, cap space will depend on the draft lottery and Nick Young’s player option.

The Lakers have $5 million in cap room that could increase to $25 million if Young opts out, they release Tarik Black and the top-three pick goes to Philadelphia.

June draft picks

The Lakers will send Philadelphia their own first-round pick if it falls outside of the top three.

The Lakers have the Rockets’ first-round pick at No. 28 from the Lou Williams trade at the deadline.

If Los Angeles retains its top-three pick then its own 2017 second-round pick will be sent to Orlando.

Future draft picks

The pick to Philadelphia will be unprotected in 2018 if not conveyed this year.

Orlando would receive a 2019 unprotected first from Los Angeles if the Lakers send Philadelphia this year’s pick.

MIAMI HEAT

Offseason focus

The Chris Bosh situation

Since Feb. 9, the Heat have had the option to file paperwork with the NBA to remove the $25.3 million and $26.8 million on Chris Bosh’s contract for the next two seasons.

So why haven’t they?

For one, the new CBA has put the Heat in a waiting game.

Under the current CBA (2011), the NBA and players association select a physician who determines if Bosh has a career-ending injury.

If that physician finds that Bosh can no longer play, the salary would then be removed from Miami’s salary cap.

However, there is a catch.

If Bosh somehow is cleared medically in November (or during the season), signs with a new team and plays more than 25 games, the salary would be added back to the Heat’s cap sheet.

The comeback would not impact cap space this summer but does have financial ramifications both in potential luxury tax the next two seasons and cap flexibility in 2018-19.

The new CBA that starts in July closes that loophole.

If Bosh is deemed medically unable to play, his case would be referred (with his consent) to a fitness panel. The panel includes three physicians; one appointed by the NBA, one by the players association and the third agreed upon by both parties.

If the panel determines that Bosh is not medically fit to play, Bosh would not be allowed to have his case heard by the panel again until the first day of the 2018-19 regular season or nine months from when the case was initially heard, whichever is later.

The Heat could remove his salary without any current and future ramifications, but the timing is tight with the new CBA starting July 1 and teams being allowed to sign free agents at noon ET on July 6.

Follow their model

Winning 31 out of 42 games to end the season is not a fluke.

Miami rebounded after Dwyane Wade’s departure and proved it had a plan.

Yes, the Heat had bookends in Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, plus wings Justice Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson.

But not many teams could pull off what the Heat did.

The franchise combined a culture of strong management, coaching, player development and work ethic with a group that was complemented by players signed to one-year contracts who had been on multiple teams in their careers.

With players such as James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Willie Reed set to hit free agency, the mental and physical makeup of the core players overshadows the lure of potential cap space to chase free agents.

Dion Waiters proved valuable to the Heat this season. (AP)

Splitting cap space

The benefit of signing players to one-year contracts is future flexibility.

Now with Waiters, Johnson and Reed having non-Bird rights and expected to opt out, Miami will need to use cap space if it wants to sign each player.

Remove Bosh’s $25.3 million salary and keep Wayne Ellington’s $6.2 million contract and Miami has $33 million in cap space.

With each player unlikely to sign a one-year contract, the task for Miami is to retain them and preserve flexibility but present a fair market deal.

Waiters and Johnson are projected to earn more than the $8.4 mid-level exception that the bulk of the NBA has available.

SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN

Guaranteed                                  2017-18                                Insider info
Chris Bosh                                          $0                    Salary expected to be removed
Hassan Whiteside                      $23,775,506
Goran Dragic                              $17,000,450
Josh McRoberts                           $6,021,175                      Player option June 29
Tyler Johnson                             $5,881,260
Dion Waiters                               $3,028,410                      Player option June 29
Justise Winslow                          $2,705,040
Willie Reed                                  $1,577,230                      Player option June 29

Non/partial                                   2017-18                             Guarantee date
Wayne Ellington                         $6,270,000                                   July 6
Josh Richardson                         $1,471,382                                 June 30
Rodney McGruder                       $1,312,611
Okaro White                                $1,312,611

FA cap hold                                   2017-18                                 FA status
James Johnson                           $4,800,000                              Non-Bird
Udonis Haslem                            $7,600,000                                  Bird
Luke Babbitt                               $1,471,382                                   Bird

First-round cap hold                    2017-18
Projected No. 14 selection         $2,490,300

Salary table                                    2017
Guaranteed salaries                $59,989,071
Non-guaranteed                      $10,366,604
Tax variance                                $317,542
FA/draft cap holds                   $16,361,682
Salaries: cap                             $86,717,357
Salaries: tax                              $70,673,217
Salary cap                               $101,000,000
Luxury tax                               $121,000,000
Cap space                                $14,282,643
Tax room                                  $50,326,783

Projected cap space

Remove Bosh’s salary and the Heat have $14.3 million in room.

How additional cap space is created will depend on what the Heat do with $10 million in non-guaranteed contracts, which includes Ellington’s $6 million salary and $13.8 million in free-agent cap holds.

Miami also has $10 million in player options, $6 million of which belongs to Josh McRoberts, who is likely to opt in to his contract for next season.

The Heat could elect to stretch McRoberts’ contract and save $4 million in room this year.

When the first week of free agency begins, expect the Heat to have $33 million in room, which could increase to $43 million based on the McRoberts and Ellington deals.

June draft picks

Miami has its own first-round pick.

Philadelphia has the Heat’s second-round pick. The pick, originally acquired by Atlanta in the 2013 draft, was traded to the 76ers as part of the Ersan Ilyasova deal in February.

Future draft picks

Phoenix has the Heat’s first-round pick in 2018, protected Nos. 1-7, because of the Dragic trade in 2015.

If Miami falls within the top seven of the draft in 2018, the pick will then carry over to 2019, unprotected.

Miami also owes Phoenix a 2021 unprotected first-round pick.

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