Earlier today, Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com regarding questions every Lakers fan has seemed to ask so far this season. It is a great read for anyone interested in the direction the Lakers are headed in the near future. Here are a few takeaways from the discussion.
- It was no coincidence at the beginning of this season that the Lakers’ payroll aligned to only have Steve Nash under contract beyond this season. Kupchak and the Lakers made a conscious decision to plan their roster this way so they could take a fresh look at everyone on their roster. Kupchak’s didn’t want to fall in the same trap as other championship teams who sign star players a few years beyond their prime. Although extending Kobe Bryant was a diversion from this plan, Kupchak believes the Lakers still have plenty of flexibility to sign a max contract free agent each of the next two summers.
- Which free agent the Lakers pursue is still up in the air because according to Kupchak, the league is “too competitive” to plan for one player’s contract actions. Kupchak did hint however that if the 2014 free agent market doesn’t turn out like he hopes the Lakers may not sign a maximum contract player this summer and instead wait until the 2015 or 2016 free agent markets.
- Looking at the young players on the team, Kupchak credited his familiarity with watching the college careers of Xavier Henry and Kendall Marshall as selling points in signing both of them this season. For Nick Young, it was the conversations between his agent, Mark Bartelstein, and Kupchak that sold Young on the Lakers as a place he could thrive with playing time and style of play. Kupchak would like to continue giving Young playing time as he hopes Nick will opt in to his player option this summer and become “a Laker for a long time”.
- On an older player on the roster, Pau Gasol, Kupchak thinks he is having a great year given the circumstances. Gasol never planned to return from major surgery to a Lakers lineup sans Bryant, Steve Nash, and Steve Blake but has handled it well according to Kupchak. Regarding Gasol’s upcoming free agency, Kupchak knows Pau will have other offers but thinks if all things remain constant, Gasol would “love to continue to play here, and we’d love to have him here”. He also believes Gasol is bound for the Hall of Fame.
- On the luxury tax, Kupchak said the “ownership here has never been afraid to be in the tax.” He also agreed with Trudell that the luxury tax is a major factor to be aware of but for the Lakers it is not a black and white line they aren’t allowed to cross.
- Regarding next summer’s draft, Kupchak thinks the first 10 players drafted will be as “good as [he's] seen in a long time”. Kupchak also noted he prepares for every draft so that he could make every pick, 1 through 60.