From NorCal to SoCal: Returning to Playoff-Caliber Teams



After the worst season in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of areas they need to address in the upcoming offseason. While the cupboard is not completely empty, it might be a couple years before the Lakers are back atop the NBA and ready to compete for a championship. Despite the uncertainties facing the team, the Lakers have always shown an ability and willingness to make drastic moves to improve overnight.

Before making any serious roster decisions, the owners and general manager Mitch Kupchak need to hire the right coach for the team. Thankfully, Mike D’Antoni will not be returning next season. Several people have been rumored as potential fits for the Lakers, including Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott, Mike Dunleavy, Lionel Hollins and Alvin Gentry, among others. Personally, among the names listed, Scott or Hollins make the most sense to me, but that decision will be up to the front office to figure out.

In terms of the Lakers’ player personnel, it all starts with Kobe Bryant. The future Hall-of-Famer will enter his 18th season with serious questions regarding his ability to play at the same elite level after missing most of last season with injuries to his knee and Achilles. The Lakers made an enormous gesture toward Kobe in awarding him the largest salary in the league, but this big number limits the team in many ways.

Only three players have guaranteed contracts for next season, including Kobe, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre. Nash is the oldest player in the league and missed most of last season with nerve and back injuries. He is a shell of his former self, but may still prove to be an effective distributor if he can stay on the court. Kendall Marshall’s non-guaranteed contract of under $1 million is a good bargain for a player that is still young and possesses a lot of potential.

Despite Nash and Marshall’s probable inclusion on the roster, point guard will be a major area of emphasis for the Lakers this offseason. The Lakers hold the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft. While top point guard prospect Dante Exum will likely be off the board by then, the Lakers could opt to select Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart if he is still available. Smart would give the Lakers an aggressive and talented athlete, albeit it one with some past character concerns to speak of. Possible free agent fits include Eric Bledsoe and Darren Collison, although the Phoenix Suns are likely to match any offer made to Bledsoe.

With Pau Gasol unlikely to return, as he might command too large of a contract in free agency for the Lakers to re-sign him, the team is in need of a talented big man. Some names that could be available to the Lakers in this year’s draft include Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh or Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. Each would add a presence down low for the Lakers and ooze with potential, although in different aspects of the game.

There is a limited pool of free agent players this year and the Lakers do not seem like a great fit for the top player on the board, Carmelo Anthony. Los Angeles may be best suited to re-sign the likes of Nick Young and Jodie Meeks, add one or two B-list players and wait until the loaded free agent pool of next season.

It seems unlikely the Lakers will acquire Kevin Love through a trade, as they do not have the resources others can offer to the Timberwolves. The Lakers can try to add Love, LaMarcus Aldridge or Rajon Rondo next offseason in an attempt to reload and ascend to the top of the NBA.

 

A version of this article appeared on page 12 of May 28th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus

Art by Minchen Shen of the Daily Nexus

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