LeBron James spins a ball during a basketball clinic at the Mall of Asia Arena… (Noel CelisS / AFP/Getty…)
The Lakers have just $10.6 million in guaranteed salary for the 2014-15 season -- giving the team in the neighborhood of $46 million in spending power next summer.
About 14 teams project to have cap space next year, with the Lakers at the top of the list by a significant margin, according to HoopsWorld.com
The NBA has estimated the salary cap will be set to $62.1 million for 2014-15. While a number of quality free agents may be available, the best players have to decide on contract options first.
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony top the list, but both can choose to stay with their respective teams. Other available players could include Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Paul Pierce, Zach Randolph, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul George -- although George is likely to be a restricted free agent.
After the Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers project to have in the neighborhood of $34 million in cap space. The Dallas Mavericks may have about $31 million.
The Lakers could increase their cap room to about $52 million -- if they used the "stretch provision" to pay off Steve Nash's final season of $9.7 million over three years (at $3.2 million). If they traded Nash without bringing back any salary in return, that number could hit nearly $55 million.
The contracts of both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol expire after the coming season but both will eat up a sizable portion of the Lakers' cap room -- even as free agents.
The only way for the Lakers to maximize their space is to either re-sign Bryant and/or Gasol to smaller contracts (as low as the league minimum of about $1.5 million) or cut them loose altogether.
If either stays, the Lakers' spending power would be reduced proportionately.
Perhaps the bigger question is the talent pool in 2014. If players like James and Anthony don't opt out, the Lakers may have a lot of money to spend but few players truly worth spending on. The pool of free agents in 2015 may be even deeper than 2014.
The Lakers are in a transition period but they have significant financial flexibility moving forward -- more perhaps than any other team in the NBA.
The challenge will be to turn that theoretical advantage into a championship roster.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.