Los Angeles Lakers
2011-12 record: 41-25, 1st in Pacific Division, 3rd in West
Playoff Result: 4-1 loss to Oklahoma City in Semi-final
The Lakers have very little to no flexibility in terms of finances. The only players coming off the books are Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks, Troy Murphy, Jordan Hill, Darius Morris, and possibly Ramon Sessions if he declines his player option. Many expect the Lakers to re-sign Hill and Ebanks as well as for Sessions to pick up his option. So, the money coming off the Lakers’ cap number will amount to pocket change and LA will still be light years above the NBA’s luxury tax number.
So, if the Lakers really want to rebuild and put together another contender, here is what they should do: decline Andrew Bynum’s team option, trade Pau Gasol, and use the amnesty clause on Kobe Bryant. That frees up roughly $55 million in cap space and will put the Lakers $25 million under the salary cap, giving Mitch Kupchak plenty of money to throw at the likes of Deron Williams, Roy Hibbert, Eric Gordon, and other big name players on the free agent market.
Alas, there is no way in any one of the Seven Hells that that scenario will pan out in reality, so the Lakers are left to work with what they have.
What this team really needs are role players. Time and again, opposing teams from all spectrums of the league’s talent levels were able to beat the Lakers as a result of their lack of talent beyond LA’s Big Three of Bryant, Bynum, and Gasol. Unfortunately, the Lakers do not have the financial flexibility capable of doing so, so again, they have to work with what they have.
The first thing this team should do is trade Pau Gasol. As a Laker fan, I’ve loved Pau ever since the Lakers stole him from Memphis back in 2008. Unfortunately, with the development of Bynum in the post, Pau has become expendable and is put out of place, as we all saw in the past two postseasons. I don’t want to see Pau go, but he is the only trade chip management is willing to deal. For who, I am not quite sure yet.
An asset the Lakers do have is the $8.9 million trade exception as a result of the Lamar Odom trade. This could be used to acquire any number of players in a package deal, or via a sign-and-trade with another team. The most important thing for this team to do is bring back talent to fill out the roster, not just a superstar trio.