Dwight Howard was not only the domino for the Los Angeles Lakers, but for the entire NBA. Only a handful of deals were completed pre-Dwight Howard, with many free agents openly stating they were waiting for the big man to decide. Now? The Lakers are left with just seven players on the roster: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Jodie Meeks. While a decent core, there’s a lot of holes in that roster. And with just the mid-level exception and veteran minimums to offer, to say there will be thin pickings is a vast understatement.
If the Lakers are committed to Mike D’Antoni’s system, which there’s no reason they shouldn’t be, they constructed in a far better manner this season. Gasol as a center is a far better match than Howard. As a result, the Lakers won’t be post-oriented this year and can focus more on a pick-and-roll, up-tempo style. They’ll look for some options at the power forward position in players who can stretch the defense, a la Ryan Anderson.
If the Lakers are interested in cutting more salaries, which seems unlikely, there are a couple manners they could do so. First, they could use their amnesty provision on any of Gasol, Bryant, Blake, or MWP. Gasol has trade value still and Bryant won’t be amnestied. According to Kevin Ding, the “original” plan if Dwight left was as follows:
Bear in mind: With Dwight leaving, Lakers' plan — assuming nothing changes — was to amnesty Metta and keep Pau.
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) July 6, 2013
While I’m not certain of the luxury tax figures, amnestying Metta in itself would shed the Lakers almost $8 million in salary alone. While it might not be the best roster move, it’s a financial move that will save a team that will likely struggle a lot of money in the long run.
Considering the Lakers are already set up for near maximum cap flexibility next season, the idea of a trade is also unlikely. If the Lakers are interested in having the entire cap space available next summer, Nash could be on the move. I think the idea is highly unrealistic, but I’m not in the Lakers front office. The only way they make a deal is for one-year deals that expire prior to 2014 or for a plethora of young assets. A couple names that could be mentioned are Danny Granger (1 year, $14 million), Rodney Stuckey (1 year, $8.5 million), or even Trevor Ariza (1 year, $7.7 million).
If the team is interested in moving Pau, the same standards (one year deals) are going to be in play save for two exceptions: a future All-Star or young, cheap assets. I’d be surprised if they moved Howard considering their complete lack of post presence right now, but if they do, Kevin Love is someone that has always been mentioned in connection with Gasol. While a deal is unlikely, it is the Lakers and they have a flair for pulling off the impossible.
Moving past possible trades, the free agent bin is bare for the Lakers, to say the least. We featured a list of possible “bargain buys” for the Lakers. Among those include former Laker Lamar Odom, who’d fit well in a D’Antoni offense. Odom was decent last season, but is a far shell of his old self. As a result, he could come at a cheap price to the Lakers. Ronnie Brewer is another option for the Lakers, a team lacking a back-up small forward. Brewer isn’t a shooter, but brings them athleticism and defense they severely lacked last season.
How much of this will actually happen? Well the Lakers will obviously add some free agents to the roster, but I don’t see a trade happening. At least not a block buster involving either Nash or Gasol. The Lakers plan all along as been to hold pat heading into the summer of 2014, and there’s no reason to change course now. Any moves the Lakers make will be made with the idea of luring a superstar to the Lakers next summer.