On Friday night the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers battled in L.A. for last place in the Western Conference. The Kings were without suspended DeMarcus Cousins and ended falling in a close game of no defense, 126-122. This matchup got me thinking about which team will be able to leave the bottom of the Western Conference first. The Lakers are rarely not in the playoffs, but this is the Mike D’Antoni and Jim Buss era and they have not proven to be a good fit so far. The Kings are about to finish up their eighth straight losing season and have many decisions this offseason. Let’s take a look at both teams’ rosters, free agency and the draft.
Los Angeles Lakers
For the next two years the big question for the Lakers is what kind of player will Kobe Bryant be? Bryant is coming off of some major injuries over the last two seasons, so to question his health is completely valid and he will be 36 years old next season. The other issue the Lakers face with Bryant is his contract for the next two seasons is at $23.5 million and $25 million, therefore, if he is not healthy, it will cripple the Lakers in many ways. Now next season the Lakers really only have two players under contract, Bryant and Steve Nash. However, it looks like Nash could retire as he has struggled to stay on the court this year and his body might not let him go one more season. So your 2014-15 Lakers, as of right now, could have a 40 year-old point guard and 36-year-old shooting guard not ideal in a very deep Western Conference. The Lakers have a lot of holes to fill in the offseason and it will all depend on which free agents want to come and play with Bryant.
The Kings have their big man for the next four years as they locked up DeMarcus Cousins with an extension that starts next season. The two big questions they face is what will they do with Isaiah Thomas, who is a free agent after this season, and Rudy Gay, who has a $19 million player option for next season. Therefore, there is a good possibility the Kings could be without both players next season, as both could be in search of long-term contracts. The Kings do have three power forwards on the books for next season in Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and Derrick Williams. The main issue with the three is that none of them have proven to be better than merely average and they are playing the trio a combined $19.5 million. In order for the Kings to improve the next couple of seasons they really need Ben McLemore to be the player many believe he can be. Right now he is looking like he could be a bust, but it is only his rookie year and he has shown flashes. Unlike the Lakers, the Kings will need to improve through the draft as free agents have been unwilling to sign in Sacramento.