Although the Lakers' short-term focus is on finishing the regular season strong and earning a playoff spot in the Western Conference, the team will face a number of questions this summer and beyond, with luxury-tax penalties set to increase starting in 2013/14. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com spoke to a number of agents, executives, and players about the Lakers' cap situation, so let's round up the highlights:
- One general manager on free agent big man Dwight Howard: "No matter what, they have to re-sign Dwight. Even if they don't want to move forward with Dwight, you gotta re-sign him because he's a tradable asset no matter what he makes…. You can always move him, but if you don't have him under your control, then you've got nothing."
- The general belief is that if Howard is re-signed, the Lakers will look to move Pau Gasol, but there are mixed opinions on how much trade value he would have, and how strong a package the Lakers could acquire. Said one GM: "He'll have value as a super expiring contract. There are 12 teams with $12MM or more in [cap space] this summer. Multiple teams will be open to doing an uneven deal to acquire him…. They would probably have to take back a multiyear deal at a lower number. Say, somebody with two or three years left at 6 million a year. They can't incentivize a deal because they have no assets — no [draft] picks and no young players of value."
- Gasol could also be amnestied, which would significantly lessen the Lakers' tax burden, but it would be a purely financial move rather than a basketball one. Rival GMs are skeptical that the team would make such a move in what could be Kobe Bryant's last year.
- Metta World Peace is a more likely amnesty candidate, though if he decides to opt out of the final year of his deal, Steve Blake could be amnestied as well. World Peace told NBA.com last week that he'd consider declining his '13/14 option, and the knee surgery he underwent since then hasn't changed that stance, according to Shelburne.
- One Lakers player said he believes World Peace would like to secure a two- or three-year contract rather than exercising his one-year player option.
- There were also varying opinions among GMs on coach Mike D'Antoni's future with the Lakers. One GM's thoughts: "I like Mike D'Antoni, but if I was them, that's the move I'd make (letting him go). You can talk about amnestying players and trades, but players are still assets. Coaches are different."