Where Next For The Lakers?
With the NBA Draft over and done with, the eyes of every basketball fan slowly fixate on free agency, a time whereby the deprivation of hope many teams felt this past season evaporates, disappears and ceases to exist. At least for a few months anyway. Why? Free agency. Basketball’s transfer season. Even if your team is set for another nothing season at the bottom, the fairground that is free agency can help alleviate those fears, giving you a free ride on the bumper cars before ultimately throwing you off, leaving you to throw up on yourself in a dark corner when you come to realise you can’t, and probably won’t, make any major free agency signings.
The Lakers are offering free agents a run at the playoffs this year, before winning it all the following season, potentially adding 2 more max free agents along the way, per Bleacher Report. Clearly, LaMarcus Aldridge has other ideas, as he has apparently rejected the idea of fulfilling a similar role to Pau Gasol next to Kobe, and left the Lakers pitch unimpressed. Compared the allure of 5 year, $108 million max deal with Blazers (which is $28 million more than any other team can offer him), or the chance to lead the post-Duncan (and probably Popovich) Spurs era, what the Lakers are offering barely scratches the surface, considering any success this year is contingent on an ageing Kobe Bryant staying healthy. No matter how good Kobe still is, pinning a team’s hopes for success on a 36-year old’s health is always going to be problematic.
They have indeed met with DeAndre Jordan, who himself is itching to become the star of a team, and not the third wheel as he currently is behind Blake Griffin & Chris Paul at the Clippers. But I don’t see any Luis Figo type-switch from one arch rival to another happening here, he’ll probably resign and have a greater offensive roles with Clips. Greg Monroe has just signed a max deal with the Bucks, so that rules him out too.
Tyson Chandler put pen to paper for 4 years to the tune of $52 million with the Phoenix Suns, while Brook Lopez, another coveted centre, inked a 3 year, $60 million deal with the Nets. Kevin Love resigned with the Cavs, and fellow Cavalier Tristan Thompson is expected to follow suit. It’s only a matter of time before Marc Gasol resigns with the Grizzlies, and to top it all off, Jimmy Butler, one of few marquee names genuinely linked to the Lakers, resigned with the Bulls for 5 years, collecting a tidy $90 million along the way.
So where does that leave the Lakers?
You could look to Robin Lopez, who would be cheaper than all of the aformentioned names, but equally as coveted as the Lakers aren’t the only team in dire of need of size in their frontcourt. They could swoop lower towards guys like Omer Asik, Kosta Koufos, but does that merely prolong the Lakers rebuild? In today’s NBA, some would say it’s better to be disastrously terrible, then merely an average team ‘getting by’.
They could re-ignite the flames surrounding a trade for DeMarcus Cousins, but that would potentially involve the Lakers giving up a medley of the few young players to build around in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle & Jordan Clarkson. Ultimately, they could end up simply resigning one of Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer or Ed Hill.
As for next season, the Lakers back-court could certainly be worse as they have Kobe Bryant, this years #2 pick D’Angelo Russell, last year’s steal of the draft, Jordan Clarkson, Iggy Azelea’s fiance Nick Young & Jabari Brown.
Their front-court makes for dismal reading for purple & gold fans, with Robert Scare & Tarik Black toeing the line, along with Julius Randle, who for the sake of fairness I can’t make a comment on, as there’s no sense in judging a player that still hasn’t even played a full 48 minutes in the NBA yet, so he could still blossom.
Could Robert Upshaw become this year’s Hassan Whiteside? He is part of the Lakers Summer League team and Upshaw certainly has tremendous upside. He averaged 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in 19 games for the Washington Huskies last season, so watch out for him.
As of right now, it’s safe to say the Lakers have definitely seen better days.