Could trouble in Clipperland mean Chris Paul might end up with the Lakers after all?

Super Duper Team

Ok so the Clippers are set for the playoffs, while the Lakers are still struggling to secure the 8th spot– something that may not be known until the season is officially done.

With that said, rumors keep persisting that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Coach Vinny Del Negro are are all different pages, with the infighting threatening to tear apart the squad (1st: http://bit.ly/16Y0Mhy  2nd: http://lat.ms/XvztdG). Almost the opposite of the Lakers– infighting early in the year, getting along now– the Clippers may fall off quickly in the playoffs and lose Chris Paul in the process– if the star PG is willing to give up big bucks to walk over to the real L.A. team.

Here’s how I see it:

Clippers:
– Chris Paul is earning $17.8 mil this season, and an unrestricted FA in the summer.
– Blake Griffin makes just $7.2 mil this season, but signed a 5-year $95 mil extension starting next year. In short, he’s the Clippers’ future (they hope alongside Chris Paul).
– DeAndre Jordan makes $10.5 mil this season, $11.0 for 2013-14, and $11.4 mil for 2014-15 before he’s off their books. That’s a lot for an athletic but that’s is C wannabe.

Lakers:
– Kobe Bryant makes $27.8 mil this season and $30.4 mil the next, after which he may most likely retire.
– Pau Gasol makes $19.0 mil this season and $19.3 mil the next, after which he’d either have to take a massive pay cut (at his number of years in the league at that point [10+ years] the vet’s min for him is $1.448 mil), go elsewhere, or retire.
– Dwight Howard is earning $19.3 mil this season, and an unrestricted FA in the summer, though it’s looking likely the Lakers will offer him a 5 year max contract.
– Steve Nash is earning $8.9 mil this season, $9.3 mil in 2013-14, and $9.7 in 2014-15. He will likely retire after the 2014-15 season.
– Metta World Peace is earning $7.3 mil this season and has a player option for 2013-14 for $7.7 mil, he would be foolish to opt out and seek more (given the Lakers’ tax position) but he reporting is thinking about doing so.

I got all of the details of salaries, exceptions, maximums and minimums from Larry Coon’s CBA Salary Faq here:  http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm

It’s pretty confusing, but most things in the new CBA have been set up to close as many loopholes as possible, and to discourage players from leaving their current team for another lest they are willing to give up big money. Chris Paul is free to walk away from the Clippers after this season, but jumping onto the Lakers may not be so easy. The Lakers are WAY over the cap next year, ESPECIALLY if they sign both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Metta World Peace (that’s a LOT of money right there).

But that’s not to say it’s not possible. A lot of it rides on the Lakers’ willingness to take on even more tax penalties for one season (2013-14) before Kobe and Pau hopefully retire, and on Chris Paul earning less from a new Lakers contract vs. a continuing Clippers one. In case you don’t remember, here are the maximum best case contracts Chris could nab with each team after this season:

CP3 ClippersContinuing with the Clippers:
Max 20% contract increase, max 7.5% annual increases (maximum $450,000 of base year), max 5 year contract
Year 1 – 2013-14 – $21,335,348
Year 2 – 2014-15 – $21,785,348
Year 3 – 2015-16 – $22,235,348
Year 4 – 2016-17 – $22,685,348
Year 5 – 2017-18 – $23,135,348
TOTAL CONTRACT – $111,176,740

CP3 LakersSigning as a FA with the Lakers:
Max 20% contract increase, max 4.5% annual increases (maximum $450,000 of base year), max 4 year contract
Year 1 – 2013-14 – $21,335,348
Year 2 – 2014-15 – $21,785,348
Year 3 – 2015-16 – $22,235,348
Year 4 – 2016-17 – $22,685,348
TOTAL CONTRACT – $88,491,392

So the max annual increases are negated with the $450,000 maximum regardless, so it comes down to losing out on that 5th year of $23.1 mil. It’s not THAT BAD, but it’s still guaranteed money nonetheless. The nice this is Chris just turned 27 in May, and after the 4th year he’d be just 31. If he’s healthy and doing great his ‘new contract’ with the Lakers (if he stayed there) or anywhere else could potentially be another 20% spike, instead of the $450,000 max additional year he’d get at age 32.

CP3 and DwightNow if Chris Paul is okay with the risk of the 5th year being open, and he’d be ready to build Showtime duo with Dwight, the Lakers fans can get really excited. But maybe not yet… The next thing is if the Lakers would be willing to take on some insane taxes for that time. Taking on Chris and Dwight’s max salary expectations for 2013-14 also falls into the first year the luxury taxes enter a graduated tax level system, so it’s gonna be BAD… even worse if you’re a ‘repeater’, which means your team was over the luxury tax limits the season before (2012-13, which the Lakers most definitely were by about $30 mil, at $100 mil the were that much past the roughly $70 mil barrier).

Here are the tax rates beginning 2013-14:

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.23.58 PM

Now let me simplify some math so everyone’s brains don’t explode at the same time. Let’s keep the players on the Lakers’ roster as in for 2013-14 (http://hoopshype.com/salaries/la_lakers.htm) and add another $10 mil or so for 4-6 various minimum salaries, for bench roles, here’s what 2013-14 might look like if the Lakers keep Dwight and get Chris:

2013-14 Lakers potential salaries:
$30.4 mil – Kobe Bryant
$23.1 mil – Dwight Howard
$21.3 mil – Chris Paul
$19.3 mil – Pau Gasol
$9.3 mil – Steve Nash
$7.7 mil – Metta World Peace (assuming he opts in)
$4.0 mil – Steve Blake
$3.9 mil – Chris Duhon
$3.5 mil – Jordan Hill
$1.5 mil – Jodie Meeks (team option, he’s cheap so I think the Lakers will keep him)
$10.0 mil – Various minimum signings
————————————————————————————————————————————–
$134.0 mil salary on contract

As if that’s not bad enough, let’s play the ‘graduated taxes for repeaters’ game too!

2013-14 Lakers potential above the luxury cap tax penalties:
Salary up to ~$70 mil = $0 (no penalty taxes)
Tier $70-$75 mil – next $5 mil x $2.50 tax rate = $12.5 mil penalty taxes
Tier $75-$80 mil – next $5 mil x $2.75 tax rate = $13.75 mil penalty taxes
Tier $80-$85 mil – next $5 mil x $3.50 tax rate = $17.5 mil penalty taxes
Tier $85-$90 mil – next $5 mil x $4.25 tax rate = $21.25 mil penalty taxes
Tier $95-$100 mil – next $5 mil x $4.75 tax rate = $23.75 mil penalty taxes
Tier $100-$105 mil – next $5 mil x $5.25 tax rate = $26.25 mil penalty taxes
Tier $105-$110 mil – next $5 mil x $5.75 tax rate = $28.75 mil penalty taxes
Tier $110-$115 mil – next $5 mil x $6.25 tax rate = $31.25 mil penalty taxes
Tier $115-$120 mil – next $5 mil x $6.75 tax rate = $33.75 mil penalty taxes
Tier $120-$125 mil – next $5 mil x $7.25 tax rate = $36.25 mil penalty taxes
Tier $125-$130 mil – next $5 mil x $7.75 tax rate = $38.75 mil penalty taxes
Tier $130-$134 mil – last $4 mil x $8.25 tax rate = $33.0 mil penalty taxes
————————————————————————————————————————————–
$316.75 mil total penalty taxes

So the Lakers would pay nearly TWO AND A HALF TIMES as much of their total salary for JUST over the cap tax penalties!! An absolutely ridiculous $450.75 MILLION in player salary and the associated penalties for having a Kobe, Pau, Dwight, Chris Paul, Nash, and Metta super duper team. I don’t know how anyone could convince Mitch K, and Jim & Jeanie Buss that it would be worth HALF A BILLION dollars to assemble this team for just one season.

Pau and KobeKobe and Pau falling off the books before 2014-15 clears $49.7 mil, and would help immensely. Beyond them, as of now that season is completely clear contract wise except for Steve Nash’s final year at $9.7 mil. Locking in Dwight and Chris means they’ll utilize about $44-$47 mil of cap space, leaving about $25 mil for other contracts to keep under the cap (make that $15 mil if they have Nash) or more likely they’ll just go over, but possibly not as much.

So basically, this utterly insane plan to assemble a super duper team with Chris and Dwight joining Kobe, Pau, Nash, and Metta would cost the Lakers BIG TIME, but then the future would be exceptionally bright and clear if the team makes a commitment to getting back under the cap. This would take some big time restraint on future spending (no LeBron chasing in the Summer of 2014) and a sharper commitment to getting young, cheap, role-defined talent like the Spurs have done over the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era. It’s very, VERY doable, but it takes the big risk of a half billion salary and penalties payout next season, in order to really rebuilt on the fly successfully in the post-Kobe, post-Pau years. Doing this without a lull in playoff contention years is incredibly tough… but if there’s any team willing to take on mind-blowing risks like these, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers.

Oh, and replacing Mike D’Antoni with Dwight & Kobe’s much preferred Phil Jackson couldn’t hurt your championship chances either 🙂

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