The Lakers might have enough money to sign New York Knicks free-agent Carmelo Anthony, but starting the summer, the Lakers are still over the NBA's salary cap.
How is that possible with only four players under contract? Each and every Lakers' free agent, even unsigned, takes up some of the team's cap space.
The NBA will announce the new salary-cap figures before July 10, when the league's annual moratorium ends. The initial projection from the league is $63.2 million.
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall combine to make $35 million, and Marshall's $915,243 is non-guaranteed.
The issue is Pau Gasol, who is taking up $20.3 million of the team's spending power. Free-agent Jordan Hill is also on the Lakers' books at $6.7 million.
Until those players either re-sign for less, leave for another team or are renounced outright by the Lakers, they'll limit what the team can spend on other free agents.
Even first-round pick Julius Randle takes up $2.5 million of the Lakers' cap before he signs his debut NBA contract.
In an odd quirk of the rules, free agents who never signed on to other teams are still on the books unless renounced. That includes long-retired Ron Harper, who won two rings with the Lakers in 2000 and 2001. He accounts for $2.9 million on the team's cap.
In addition to Harper, there is a combined $14.1 million in Lakers' cap space going to Karl Malone, Horace Grant, Mitch Richmond, Jim Jackson, Shammond Williams, Ira Newble, John Salley, Joe Smith, Theo Ratliff, Andrew Goudelock and even Denver Nuggets Coach Brian Shaw.
It's strictly a clerical issue. General Manager Mitch Kupchak can simply wipe that slate clean by renouncing the likes of Shaw, Harper and the odd, historic list.
Should Kupchak renounce all non-guaranteed players on the roster — such as Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Gasol — the team would have about $22 million to spend.
If the Lakers choose to stretch Steve Nash's $9.7 million over three seasons, at about $3.2 million a year, spending power could increase to as high as $28.5 million.
The difficult part for the Lakers is finding the right free agents willing to come. They meet today with Anthony to see if he's willing to join up with Bryant and possibly a re-signed Gasol.
How would the math work? Gasol would need to be re-signed before Anthony, perhaps at an $8-million starting salary, reducing his cap hit by about $12 million.
After stretching Nash and renouncing all non-guaranteed free agents (except restricted free-agent Ryan Kelly, who has an offer sheet of $1 million), the Lakers would have $20.5 million to spend on Anthony.
If Gasol took a little less, or if the cap comes in higher than $63.2 million, the Lakers might be able to reach Anthony's full max salary starting at $22.5 million.
The difficult part is getting the All-Star forward to agree to come, especially when the Knicks can offer up to five years at $129.1 million and the Lakers can only go to four at $95.9 million.