The Los Angeles Lakers are waiving fifth-year guard Quinn Cook, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Cook, a lifelong Lakers fan who won a championship with the team last season, struggled to find any minutes in a revamped rotation. The decision serves multiple purposes from a roster-building perspective.
The decision to waive Cook will not cost the Lakers any money from a cap perspective. His contract was non-guaranteed, and the deadline to waive such deals before guaranteeing them is Saturday, Feb. 27. The Lakers have apparently decided that they prefer the freedom waiving Cook grants to keeping him. They can wield that freedom in a variety of ways.
The simplest would be to simply sign another player. The Lakers are reportedly interested in bringing back DeMarcus Cousins, who is being released by the Houston Rockets, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. They could not have immediately signed him, though, because they are pressed up against the hard cap. By using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (on Montrezl Harrell) and the bi-annual exception (on Wes Matthews) this offseason, the Lakers committed to remaining below the $138.9 million hard cap for the entire season.
They legally cannot exceed it for any reason. With just over $138 million in salary on their books, they had less than $1 million with which to operate. They could not have even legally signed another player until Feb. 24, when the pro-rated portion of the veteran’s minimum would dip low enough to fit within their space. Now, they can sign another player slightly earlier. With Cook gone, they now have two empty roster spots to potentially use on the buyout market. So long as they have 14 players when the dust settles, they are free to consider a variety of options.
An under-the-radar possible explanation of this move is that the Lakers wanted to free up cash to use in a trade. With so little space under the hard cap prior to waiving Cook, they would have struggled to make an unbalanced trade from a cap perspective. Every penny counts, and now, the Lakers could potentially absorb a player that makes slightly more than anyone that they send out.
The Lakers have now lost three games in a row without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder, and it is becoming clear their offense has flaws in need of outside help. How Rob Pelinka will address those flaws remains to be seen, but waiving Cook gives him the flexibility to do so in whatever manner he sees fit.