An injury plagued season for the Lakers will lead to the team to miss the playoffs for the first time since the early 90’s. At times, it has felt like the Lakers should invest in hyperbaric chambers instead of picking up players through the NBDL. At least the wounds of the Laker players would potentially heal faster.
The goal for the Laker management team is to create a highly competitive team in a small window of time. The last time this happened, they retained Kobe Bryant, lost Shaquille O’Neal to a trade, and struggled to get to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the window is for 2015, not 2014. The best players of free agency, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Tim Duncan, only become free agents if they each choose the early termination option on their contract. Otherwise, their respective contracts expire at a later date. It doesn’t seem likely that the Miami triumvirate should bail so easily when they are annual championship contenders. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are in the twilight of their careers, unable to build a franchise for the next six years. The best unrestricted free agent available for 2014 is Luol Deng, who is a #2 or #3 option at best.
The following year presents more hope. The cap should be around $60,000,000, and the total team salary, if the Lakers allow all the current contracts to expire, is roughly $25,000,000. Kobe Bryant would be the only player left on the team. While there are no true elite superstars available that year, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson, DeAndre Jordan, Anderson Varejao, and Marc Gasol are all available right in the middle of the prime of their NBA careers. Kevin Love has expressed interest in the Lakers before, so it seems likely that he’ll choose free agency in 2015 as well. With $35,000,000 in cap space, the chances are high to acquire two, if not, three of these players as pillars of the franchise. Combine that with this year’s lottery pick, and there’s a lot of optimism for the team going forward.
In my dream scenario, I would pick up Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, and DeAndre Jordan.
Admittedly, it seems unlikely that Tony Parker, DeAndre Jordan, and LaMarcus Aldridge would leave their respective teams. Parker is the cornerstone for San Antonio, but considering their first-rate management, they’ll find a way to acquire a key player while Duncan and Ginobili head off into the sunset. Aldridge is a more difficult player to acquire. He’s been with Portland through the ups and downs, and they are in the middle of the upswing now. There are so many talented players on Portland’s team. Lillard is a first-rate point guard. Batum is an underated wing player. The team shares the basketball and plays with great defense. DeAndre Jordan has a great thing going as a Clipper alongside Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. He leaves only if the Clippers are unwilling to pay what he demands, or if he wants all the lob dunks to himself.
There’s even a possibility of keeping Pau past this season, and acquiring his young brother Marc Gasol. It wouldn’t be so bad to have, “Team Spain West.”
Still, the Lakers can afford to draft the best player available at the given draft pick at the end of this season. Whether it’s Embiid, Exum, Parker, Randle, Wiggins, Smart, or Vonleh, it is very possible to acquire the likes of Kevin Love and have him partnered up with Marc Gasol or Anderson Varejao.
After that, it’s all about filling the team with players on veteran minimum sized contracts. Who is available in 2015? Andre Miller and Jason Terry stand out the most. Who knows? The Lakers may just reacquire players that have played this season in Nick Young, Kent Bazemore, MarShon Brooks, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall, or Shawne Williams. While each would want greater contracts, I doubt they would want to miss the Lakers on the upswing of playoff contention.
The team may not look as sexy with Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao or Marc Gasol leading the way, but at least would be winning games, and that’s all the Laker fans want. Maybe, just maybe, the Lakers can compete for a championship in 2015.