If you’re thinking why the Lakers finally made this move instead of earlier this summer the answer is that September 1st is the day after the deadline to stretch a player and apply those salary savings to the 2018-19 season. In other words, the Lakers purposely waived Deng at the exact time where they are, technically, only stretching the final contract year.
ESPN reporting with @ramonashelburne: In buyout with Lakers, Luol Deng walked away from $7.5M on the $36.8M left on his contract. With waive and stretch provision, Lakers have cleared $38M in salary cap space in 2019 free agency.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 1, 2018
Beyond the massive economic benefit of waiving and stretching only the last year of Deng’s salary, Adrian Wojnarowski report that Deng gave back $7.5 million of the remaining $36.8 million he was owed over the final two years of his deal. This is a significant give back by Deng, making clear his motive to move on from the team in the hopes of signing onto another roster for the upcoming season where he can earn back some of what he gave up.
With Deng giving back the amount he did, the Los Angeles Lakers can and will now only stretch $15 million over 3 years, reducing his cap hit to only $5 million per season. This, then, will allow the Lakers to go into the summer of 2019 with a significant amount of cap space — more than enough to chase the 2nd max salaried player they covet to pair with LeBron James.