LeBron James takes $3 million less to keep Lakers under second apron, per sources: What it means

LeBron James is taking a nearly $3 million discount to keep the Los Angeles Lakers under the dreaded second apron. James is signing a two-year, $101.355 million deal instead of the two-year, $104 million maximum he could’ve re-signed for, according to league sources.

Along with his player option and a no-trade clause, James’ contract also includes a 15 percent trade kicker, those sources said.

James’ new contract puts the Lakers at just under the $188.9 million second apron. If the Lakers can salary dump a couple of their veteran minimum contracts — attaching a second-round pick to entice a trade partner — they’d create two roster spots and the flexibility to use the $5.2 million taxpayer midlevel exception. The Lakers have preferred to enter previous seasons with only 14 players on their roster for flexibility in trades and on the buyout market.

Gary Trent Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie are two names to watch for if the Lakers clear enough space to use their taxpayer midlevel exception, according to league sources.

Had the Lakers become a second-apron team, they would’ve suffered several harsh restrictions regarding how they’d be able to build their roster for the rest of this offseason. For example, teams above the second apron cannot trade first-round picks seven years in the future, cannot trade cash in a deal, lose their midlevel exception, are limited to 100 percent salary-matching in trades and cannot combine multiple players in a deal, among several other restrictions.

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But with James accepting a slight reduction, the Lakers are only limited to first-apron restrictions, which include not being able to acquire a player via sign-and-trade, not being able to use more than the taxpayer midlevel exception (worth approximately $5.2 million), not being allowed to use a pre-existing trade exception or taking back additional salary in a trade, among several other restrictions.

James had previously discussed taking a substantial pay cut to allow the Lakers to sign a notable player for the non-taxpayer midlevel exception. The list of players he would’ve taken a discount for included James Harden, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas. However, only Valanciunas was available in that price range, but he ended up signing in Washington on a three-year, $30 million deal.

The Lakers’ roster stands at 15 players, meaning they need to make a consolidation trade if they want to open up a new roster spot.

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(Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

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