This summer’s free agency has been exciting and full of anxious fans awaiting the future of their teams to unfold. The Los Angeles Lakers are right in the center of the madness. Armed with an estimated $22.5 million dollars in cap room, the team planned to pursue LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the hopes that they could possibly pair them with Kobe Bryant.
It appears that the dream of signing either player are over for the Lakers. James has arranged meetings between his agent and the Lakers, but talks didn’t extend into any certainty of a signing. Meanwhile, Anthony was reportedly intrigued by the Lakers’ presentation of recruiting the 11-year veteran. Not only did Mitch Kupchak and company provide business ventures beyond basketball, but they even offered a four-year, $96 million dollar deal if Anthony committed.
Over the last several days, James has indicated that he will possibly return to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat. Reports are also stating that Carmelo is likely to return to the New York Knicks. With each big name falling off of their radar, the Lakers will dive back into the market to find the next pieces to fill out their roster. One name that has added to the franchise’s legacy is Pau Gasol.
Gasol added two NBA titles to the Lakers, but has also been the center of trade rumors, even being dealt in the vetoed deal that nearly sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles. The Spaniard is one of the most coveted names in free agency at age 34. It appears that Gasol’s run may have come to an end in Hollywood, but the team is still interested in bringing him back.
Aside from Kobe Bryant at shooting guard and Steve Nash, presumably their starting point guard, the Lakers starting lineup is relatively empty. Both Anthony and James would be ideal targets to anchor the small forward spot, but the Lakers will have to fall back on a new plan. Names linked to the team at that position range from Luol Deng to Trevor Ariza, formerly of the 2010 Lakers championship team.
Each player is looking for contracts in the $10 million dollar per year range. Those numbers aren’t gaudy for the Lakers with their space, but the years that each pursue for those contracts could affect flexibility going forward. The Lakers want to keep their books open for the 2016 free agency class, which features Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, and Russell Westbrook.
The lack of depth may propel lottery pick Julius Randle or 2013 draftee Ryan Kelly into the Lakers starting frontcourt. If L.A. does not go the route of these young players, they still have the chance to re-sign Jordan Hill. Other names that will be in the mix to fill out power forward and center are Ekpe Udoh, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin, and Emeka Okafor. These names aren’t the sexiest prospects, but the market for big men is thin. The one thing that these players can provide for the Lakers are bargain deals while preserving cap space.
Kendall Marshall will also return at point guard, but with the recent loss of Jordan Farmar to the Los Angeles Clippers, point guard depth is a concern. Isaiah Thomas has the Lakers as one of the teams on his free agent wish-list, and his addition would be more than welcomed to the team. Thomas can provide both youth and play-making that the team has lacked over the last few years.
L.A. has shown interest in bringing back the rest of last season’s roster. They will have to hope that guys like Kent Bazemore, Xavier Henry, or Nick Young don’t get deals thrown their way once teams start clamoring after them once James and Anthony commit somewhere. These players coming back would provide the team with some familiarity in personnel.
The last piece of the Lakers off-season puzzle will be hiring a head coach. In a press conference yesterday, Kobe Bryant endorsed Byron Scott as his choice. The former Laker may end up being on their sideline this season, as he holds a close relationship with Kobe and the franchise. The next several weeks should start to show some continuity in Los Angeles.