Dwight Howard's departure means Pau Gasol won't be a major tax… (Michael Nelson / EPA )
The loss of Dwight Howard will take some time for the Lakers to get over, but the franchise saved a significant amount of money in his departure.
With Howard on the books at $20.5 million, the team's payroll might have climbed to as high as $104.3 million -- assuming the Lakers would use their taxpayer mid-level exception of $3.2 million to add another piece.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the tax rate shifts this season from flat to exponential. The Lakers at $104.3 million would be on hook for an astounding $97.9 million in luxury tax for a total of $202.3 million.
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At that price, the team would have certainly used their one-time amnesty on Pau Gasol. While the veteran forward/center would still get the final $19.3 million on his contract, the Lakers' tax would drop all the way down to about $26.1 million.
As much as Gasol has meant to the franchise during his stay, he wouldn't be worth the extra $71.8 million in tax -- now a moot point with Howard on his way to Houston.
Could the Lakers have found a trade for Gasol without returning close to the same level of salary?
Perhaps, but the cap teams capable of such a deal would probably prefer to make a run at the forward/center through the amnesty waiver process. For example, the Dallas Mavericks could bid about $4 million on Gasol after amnesty to get him at that price instead of $19.2 million in trade.
Fortunately for Gasol, who prefers to stay with the Lakers, it is now a moot point.
Now if the Laker spend their mid-level exception, they'll climb as high as roughly $85 million in salary and a more-manageable $26 million in tax.
Of course that raises the question -- could amnesty still come into play?
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.