Luol Deng gives back $7.5M in buyout agreement with Lakers

Luol Deng: From soccer fan to an NBA star (2:55)

Los Angeles Lakers small forward Luol Deng reflects on his journey from South Sudan to the NBA. (2:55)

Luol Deng agreed to a significant give-back of $7.5 million in his contract buyout with the Los Angeles Lakers, clearing $38 million in salary cap space for 2019 free agency, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers can now offer a free-agent star a maximum contract in July to partner with LeBron James. The Lakers are targeting the top players in a potentially starry 2019 marketplace, including Toronto's Kawhi Leonard, Golden State's Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and Minnesota's Jimmy Butler

Deng's buyout leaves him with $29 million for the two years left on his contract, which the Lakers will use the waive and stretch provision to soften the short-term salary cap hit. The significant money that Deng, 33, gave up reflects how determined he's been to continue his career elsewhere. The Lakers could've waited until next summer to use the waive and stretch provision without Deng's financial concessions.

But Deng wouldn't have any incentive to do a buyout next summer, knowing the Lakers would need to do so in order to create a max contract slot. His incentive this year was to create an opportunity to play elsewhere this year. The Lakers incentive was to create a maximum slot for next summer without giving up an asset in a trade to shed Deng's contract.

The stretch provision projects Deng to impact the Lakers salary cap $4.99 million a year from 2019-20 to 2021-22. If they'd waited until next summer without any buyout, they'd have to stretch approximately $6 million per year over the three seasons.

Deng signed a four-year, $72 million free agent deal with the Lakers in 2016. The Lakers benched Deng, 33, for all but one game of the past season.