Who can the Lakers go after with their Disabled Player Exception?

The list of actual targets for the exception, be it in a trade or off waivers, is quite small, limited to those who are getting paid a minimum salary but technically aren’t on minimum contracts, since they originally signed for deals longer than two years. The total can be counted on two hands: Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon of the Charlotte Hornets, Dillon Brooks and Ivan Rabb of the Memphis Grizzlies, Frank Jackson of the New Orleans Pelicans, Damyean Dotson of the New York Knicks, Wesley Iwundu of the Orlando Magic and Royce O’Neale of the Utah Jazz.

That’s it.

If Brooks or O’Neale became available, the Lakers would make a move, but that’s unlikely. A trade or waiver claim may end up a dead end, although it’s worth holding on to the exception in case something unexpected occurs.

Patience may be the answer. Minimum contracts decrease throughout the year, depending on the date signed; disabled player exceptions do not. A player who can sign for $2.6 million before the season is eligible for roughly $464,000 if they sign the same contract on March 10.

The Lakers could use the full $1.75 million in March to pick up a veteran, which potentially gives them an advantage over other contenders also looking to add help on the buyout market via minimum contracts.

Still, several teams, such as the Houston Rockets ($5.7 million) and Denver Nuggets ($8.3 million), might outbid the Lakers with their remaining mid-level exceptions, which do prorate downward but start at a much higher figure than a Cousins disabled player exception would.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of due diligence. The Lakers are applying for the exception not because they expect to use it or have a specific player in mind. It’s a tool they should have simply because they can have it.

It will probably go unused, but even an average NBA season takes multiple twists and turns. Flexibility is vital, and a Cousins exception would give Los Angeles an extra card to play, just in case.

The team would prefer to have the big man on the floor, but maybe a small disabled player exception can somehow make the difference.