Since Kobe Bryant signed a two-year extension with the Lakers yesterday, reactions have poured in, with many observers questioning whether the team will be able to build a championship-caliber roster around Kobe’s massive salary. GM Mitch Kupchak believes L.A. still has enough flexibility to put together a contender (Twitter link via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report), and Kobe’s deal still leaves the club with room for another max-salary free agent in 2014.
However, having the room to add a free agent doesn’t necessarily ensure one will sign in L.A. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are frequently cited as the team’s two likeliest targets, but LeBron currently looks like a long shot to leave Miami, and Carmelo would probably have to turn down more years and money from New York if he chose the Lakers.
Outside of those two stars, there are several other players who could be free agents in 2014, and could receive a salary at or near the max: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Rudy Gay, Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, and Gordon Hayward are among them. But none of those players are assured of max deals, and many will be restricted free agents, meaning their current teams could match any offer sheets from the Lakers.
As Kevin Pelton observed today in an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, there may be better fits for the Lakers on the market in the summer of 2015. Kevin Love is expected to hit free agency at that point, and players like Brook Lopez and Rajon Rondo could be available as well. The Lakers won’t have the flexibility to add a max free agent in 2014 and another one in 2015, but if they hang on to their cap space for an extra year, they could make a big splash in ’15.
What do you think? Will the Lakers land a max free agent in 2014 or 2015? Or will they make do with several smaller, complementary pieces around Kobe until his new deal expires?