Offseason Outlook: Los Angeles Lakers

Guaranteed Contracts


Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Draft Picks

  • 2nd Round (60th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $78,517,189
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary (including options), Cap Holds: $27,890,493
  • Total (not including draft picks): $106,407,682

For some NBA teams, making the second round of the playoffs would represent a hugely successful season. The Lakers' Staples Center cohabitants, for instance, probably fit that bill — the Clippers certainly weren't disappointed by a season in which they set a franchise record for winning percentage and were knocked out in the Western Conference Semis. But for the Lakers, a second-round exit just isn't going to cut it.

Following back-to-back resounding second-round defeats, there are rumblings that big changes could be in store for the Lakers this offseason. Even after dumping Lamar Odom in December though, the team doesn't have the cap flexibility to be a factor in free agency. After picking up Andrew Bynum's 2012/13 option, the Lakers' salary commitments for next season total a whopping $78.5MM for just seven players, putting them not only over the cap, but well over the luxury tax line as well.

The amnesty clause is still available for the Lakers, since they didn't use it in December, but it doesn't figure to make a huge impact. The club can't create any cap space unless it amnesties Kobe Bryant, which is about as likely as the Bobcats winning the 2013 NBA Finals. Using the amnesty provision on a player like Metta World Peace would reduce the Lakers' tax penalty, but wouldn't change their cap situation — the team would still be in the tax, with only the $3MM mini mid-level exception at its disposal.

It's not out of the question that the Lakers' small MLE could bring in a solid rotation player. They could make a bid for a small forward like Gerald Green, or perhaps a point guard coming off a down year like Raymond Felton. The appeal of the Lakers' franchise and its history might mean that a player who could earn a little more money elsewhere would be willing to play in Los Angeles for $3MM annually.

Before the Lakers target Felton or any other point guard, however, they'll have to figure out what to do with their in-house option. Ramon Sessions has a player option worth about $4.55MM, and even though he didn't impress in the postseason, Sessions could likely find a solid multiyear offer on the open market. He's a good bet to opt out of the final year of his deal, in which case the Lakers will have to decide whether they want to lock him up for multiple years or go a different direction. Sessions represented a significant improvement on the early-season combination of Steve Blake and Derek Fisher, and the Lakers will have limited free agent flexibility, so I can see the two sides working out a new contract to keep the former Cav in L.A.

Of course, while the Lakers may not be able to make a splash in free agency, they do hold two big trade chips, in Bynum and Pau Gasol. Gasol was nearly traded last December in a deal for Chris Paul, and I expect the Lakers wouldn't hesitate to move the Spaniard "again" if it means landing a top point guard. The Rockets are a potential trade partner, having long coveted Gasol and with a young point guard to offer in Kyle Lowry.

Gasol's contract, which has two years and $38MM+ left, may be a tough pill to swallow for some interested suitors, however. If the Lakers want to maximize their trade impact, they'll consider offers for Bynum. Although there are questions about his makeup and his approach, he's arguably the second-best center in the NBA behind Dwight Howard, and is still just 24 years old. It sounds as if the Lakers' brass love Bynum and hope to make him the cornerstone of the franchise after Kobe is gone, so the team probably won't move him unless they can land Howard and get a long-term commitment from D12.

The Lakers head into the offseason searching for a way to surround Bryant with a team that can legitimately contend for a title in the immediate future. Los Angeles didn't hesitate to trade both of its first-round draft picks at the deadline, and won't be looking to add young talent that can't contribute right away. If the Lakers make a big trade this summer, it's likely to involve Gasol, and it's likely to bring in a player or two that can make the team better right away, rather than down the road. If the Lakers can find such a deal, this may be the time that all those blockbuster trade rumors finally turn into something concrete.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.


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