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Buyout, stretch of Luol Deng sets Lakers up to land max player to go with LeBron

Luol Deng

Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng (9) walks toward the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)


Kawhi Leonard is the most discussed name, and while Toronto will spend a season trying to win him over his people have made it clear he wants to be in Los Angeles.

Jimmy Butler’s name comes up, few sources around the league think he will be in Minnesota a year from now, and he is open to playing with LeBron James.

Kevin Durant’s name gets mentioned, but that’s a long, long, longshot (if he’s leaving the Warriors would it really be to get in LeBron’s shadow?). Klay Thompson is a favorite fan topic, but nobody around the league really expects him to leave Golden State (he’s not looking for his own team the way some stars do). Other star player’s names always pop up as a surprise.

As much as Brandon Ingram has potential and the Lakers’ like their young core and trust they can get the right role players, that team needs one more max-contract level player next to LeBron to compete with Golden State and Houston the next few years.

The Luol Deng buyout announced Saturday sets them up to do that. Deng is giving up $7.5 million of the $36 million he was owed the next to years to facilitate the deal, Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN report.

First, that shows you how badly Deng wanted out of Los Angeles so he could get a chance to play. That’s a chunk of change he’s giving up.

For the Lakers, it means they save money.

It also means next summer — thanks to all those one-year contracts they handed out to veterans — the Lakers will have about $38 million in cap space, enough for a max contract.

While it is possible the Lakers make a deadline trade for a star, they seem to be more focused on not giving up assets now and trying to land one of those big stars next summer in free agency. Which star? Can Magic Johnson pull this off for the Lakers?

It’s going to be a wild next 12 months in Los Angeles.