What’s Next for the Lakers?

For the past two seasons, the Lakers haven’t been able to trot out anything close to a lineup that is at full strength. They slew of injuries from last season has continued straight into the opening months of this season, culminating in Kobe Bryant fracturing part of his leg and is now out for 6 weeks. Lost in the mix was that Steve Nash is out for at least another 4 weeks with his nerve injury. The Lakers have been forced to sign a point guard with the latest injury to Kobe, opting for former Phoenix Sun and lottery pick Kendall Marshall. Marshall fits the same mold as Wes Johnson, Xavier Henry and Shawne Williams; all former lottery picks hoping to redeem their career and stick. But with two of the Lakers highest paid players out for another significantly long stretch, what is the Lakers plan?

Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) sits on the bench during the 3rd quarter with injured teammates Jody Meeks (left), Steve Nash and Steve Blake in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs against San Antonio at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Kobe’s injury, the Lakers stated that Pau Gasol was no longer on the trade market. His uptick in production and effort had shown the Lakers enough, combined with Kobe’s return, that they should hang on to Gasol and make a run with this team. But now? Pau had clearly been more effective with Kobe on the floor, and was able to utilize a nice one-two game. But his partner in that one-two game has been sidelined for 6 weeks, a stretch that will cover 20-22 games for the Lakers. Although the Lakers were able to tread water without Bryant, but beginning in January, the team’s schedule gets much more difficult, and the Lakers would be lucky to maintain a .500 record through Kobe’s absence. So what is the purpose of retaining Pau Gasol?

Gasol has been rather public with his thoughts of potentially leaving the Lakers this offseason, and who can blame him? He has been the center of trade rumors for multiple seasons and has been publicly lambasted by both head coach Mike D’Antoni and Kobe. His price tag likely won’t be reduced for the Lakers, particularly after seeing Kobe get taken care of – a move that would further hamstring the Lakers rebuilding efforts. So does the door re-open to trade Gasol or was it ever really even shut? The Lakers don’t want to take on future salary, but to move the $19.3 million that is Gasol’s contract it is almost impossible not to. Perhaps a three team trade at the deadline would be the best solution for the Lakers, but as of now, seems unlikely.

What about Nash? The point guard the Lakers traded two first round picks for has failed to live up to any sort of expectation set for him, mostly due to the leg injury suffered in his 2nd game with the Lakers. If the Lakers decide to keep Nash off the floor, there is a chance he could medically retire, leaving the Lakers with an extra $9 million in cap space this offseason. If retirement isn’t in the plans, (and why would it be? Would you turn down $9 million?) the Lakers do have the option to waive and stretch his contract, putting a $3 million cap hold over the next three seasons. This would give the Lakers an extra $6 million in cap space this offseason, enough to sign a mid level free agent.

Dec 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol (16) and guard Kobe Bryant (24) react during the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 114-108. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

All of these injuries have thrown a wrench into the Lakers’ plans. Kobe was recently signed to a very lucrative two-year extension and only managed to appear in 6 games before getting re-injured. The plan had been to aim for the playoffs and see if Kobe and Pau could recapture some of that magic that brought them three straight trips to the NBA Finals. Now that doesn’t seem as feasible. The team seems ready to roll with the youth lineup they currently have, and perhaps that’s the best option. See which players have a future on this team and hope for the best in the draft lottery. What other options do the Lakers have left?

Topics: Los Angeles Lakers

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