Heading into the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers had only three guaranteed contracts on the books (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Robert Sacre). Now, weeks removed from the NBA Draft, the Lakers still only have three contracts on the books. How is this possible after the team drafted Julius Randle at No. 7 and Jordan Clarkson at No. 46? Well, as the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes has yet to come to a close, Los Angeles is keeping the excess cap space open in the event Anthony decides to sign a maximum contract with the Lakers.
So, one may assume, no big deal the NBA season does not begin until for months from now and what does it matter if Randle is under contract or not. Well, first and foremost, the Lakers cannot spend the salary assumed by Randle due to something called a “cap hold.” A cap hold basically acts as a temporary deduction in available salary cap space for a player who is expected to be signed in the relatively near future. For example, Los Angeles currently has an approximate $34,200,000 on the books between Nash, Bryant and Sacre. Next we must add in Randle’s cap hold on a rookie scale minimum salary of $2.4 million, making the Lakers’ total for owed salaries about $36,600,000.
Notice how this $2.4 million figure is the minimum salary Randle is guaranteed to receive. This is the minimum because contrary to popular belief, rookie scale contracts are actually negotiable as Randle’s maximum possible salary hits the ceiling at $2.9 million. While $500,000 may seem minuscule when comparing to it to various other contracts around the league, it can potentially be the deciding factor when attempting to lure a free agent to the team. As much as the Lakers would like to offer Randle to maximum rookie contract, as most teams often do, it is simply not worth the risk of losing out on a marquee free agent like Anthony.
Therefore, until Anthony publicly declares his decision of where he will sign, Julius Randle will likely remain unsigned. The reason why this can potentially become a problem is that, until he is under contract, Randle is unable to participate in the NBA Summer League on beginning Jul. 11 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This experience is vital for rookies, especially one-and-dones, because it allows them time to adjust to the elite completion while showcasing their talents to their new teams.
The Lakers have been adamant in getting Randle’s foot medically cleared in time for the summer league, sending him to multiple doctors including one in the distant state of Indiana. Finally the weight was lifted off everybody’s shoulders when he was cleared, but it means nothing if he misses out on the Summer League competition.
Personally, I can’t blame the Lakers for holding out for an opportunity to land a superstar player such as Carmelo Anthony. Let’s just remain hopeful that he makes up his mind within the next 48 hours so Julius Randle and the rest of the organization can move on with their lives.