Re-signing Dwight Howard is the Lakers' top priority in free agency.
Free agency 2013 will be a crucial affair for the Los Angeles Lakers. Barring some unforeseen miracle, it will come on the heels of an unequivocally disappointing 2012-13 campaign.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace headline an aging core that will be yet another year older heading into next season. With the contracts of Bryant, Gasol and nearly every other Laker coming to an end in the summer of 2014, this offseason will be the Lakers' last chance to turn their current roster into a title contender.
When considering who L.A. should target in free agency, we must keep in mind the all-important salary cap. The Lakers are over the cap and figure to be well into luxury-tax territory by the time they turn their attention to bringing in new free agents.
That means the only contracts the Lakers can hand out to players not already on the roster are minimum deals and about $1.6 million of the taxpayer's exception that they have left.
So although the Lakers would much rather have Andre Iguodala (who has an early termination option) than Randy Foye, the salary Iggy would command on the open market far exceeds what L.A. can actually pay him.
That's why Foye makes this list while Iguodala does not.
The Lakers' biggest needs are for shooting and athleticism on the wings, which is why this list is made up almost exclusively of those types of players. Players are ranked according to basketball fit and the likelihood that they would sign for the amount of cash the Lakers can throw their way.
This then, is what the top 10 on the Lakers' 2013 free agency Big Board looks like.
Just a month ago, Lakers fans were worried that Earl Clark had played his way into a rich contract in the offseason that the Lakers would not be able to match.
Now it's a question of whether it's even worth bringing Clark back.
How much loyalty do you show a guy who legitimately helped turn your season around?
Clark has proven he can be a useful player. He's a good rebounder and defender with the versatility to play either forward spot.
Another offseason of training may see him develop his outside shot a little more too.
Thanks to his recent slump and the evaporation of his minutes upon Pau Gasol's return, Clark's value has taken a steep nosedive over the last few weeks. The Lakers may be able to retain him at a cap-friendly number.
After a lackluster career to date, Martell Webster has enjoyed a breakout season. He's blowing away his career bests in nearly every major category.
Most relevant to the Lakers is his 44 percent accuracy from three-point range, a figure which ranks fifth in the NBA. Webster is also fifth among all non-big men in true shooting percentage, and his offensive rating has been off the charts.
He's got great size for a wing and puts forth commendable effort on the defensive end, though he lacks mobility (think Joe Johnson). Webster is affordable too, making just $1.6 million this season.
The question is: Will other teams open their wallets for Webster after witnessing his career year?
Randy Foye is another effective floor-spacer who is shooting above 40 percent on threes this season. Unfortunately, he's also shooting below 40 percent from the field overall for the third consecutive year.
Though Foye is an excellent free-throw shooter with sneaky athleticism, he rarely attacks the rim. He's got a decent handle and takes care of the ball, but he doesn't create much for his teammates. His assist rate has plummeted since he started playing more off the ball a couple of seasons ago.
On the plus side, Foye can handle himself well on the perimeter defensively, though as an undersized shooting guard he struggles against bigger 2s who can post him up.
Essentially, he's a slightly better version of Jodie Meeks who also gets paid slightly more ($2.5 million for this season).
Foye profiles as one of those guys who teams won't clamor over at the start of free agency, so the Lakers may be able to sign him for a bargain late in the summer.
Dorell Wright has been a forgotten man in a terrible situation in Philadelphia.
He is just two years removed from leading the NBA in made triples and is shooting threes at a slightly better clip this season.
Wright has flashed a more all-around game with the Sixers as well, even playing some brief stints at backup point guard.
He has great length and the aura of a defensive stopper about him, but he hasn't shown the ability to play that role. That said, he would still be a better option on the perimeter than most of the guys the Lakers have thrown out there this year.
Mike Dunleavy would be a great fit with the Lakers. He can score in multiple ways and has fashioned himself into a reliable threat from three-point range. His 43 percent mark from deep ranks seventh in the NBA.
Dunleavy has been one of the most efficient offensive players at his position over the last few seasons, and his defense on the wing is competent as long as you don't ask him to check the other team's top perimeter scorer.
The two major issues with Dunleavy are his age—he'll be 33 at the start of next season—and his salary—$3.75 million this year. Bringing him in would add another old and slow player to the mix, and he'd also have to agree to a pay cut.
J.J. Redick has really come a long way as an NBA player. Most people still think of him as a catch-and-shoot specialist, but really that's only part of his game.
Redick has become deadly at attacking the rim after curling off screens. He can get into the paint for layups, is shooting fouls at a pretty good clip and has perfected the pocket pass to the man screening for him.
As an excellent shooter and willing ball-mover, he's a perfect fit into Mike D'Antoni's offense. His price tag is hefty though—$6.2 million this season—and even though his productivity has fallen off a bit since joining the Milwaukee Bucks, he's earned his paycheck.
Another question mark for the Lakers is his relationship with former Orlando Magic teammate Dwight Howard. Earlier this month Redick spoke out against comments Howard made concerning his old teammates.
Kyle Korver is arguably the best shooter on the planet, and certainly will be the top sniper available in free agency.
Korver already holds the record for single-season three-point percentage and he's second in the league in that category in 2013. He trails only Kevin Durant and LeBron James in true shooting percentage among non-bigs.
Luckily for Korver, he is really really good at shooting the basketball because that's basically all he does. He almost never scores inside of 18 feet and rarely gets to the foul line. Although he's a decent team defender, he struggles to guard wings who can create their own shot.
Korver is a veteran with playoff experience. At 32 years of age he may take a pay cut to chase a ring.
If the Lakers want an infusion of speed and athleticism along with a defensive boost, Corey Brewer is their man. He's an ultra-fast ball of manic energy.
In their many meetings with the Denver Nuggets over the past couple seasons, the Lakers have witnessed firsthand the damage Brewer can do.
He's one of the best thieves in the league and can be a lockdown perimeter defender, though he's too thin to handle some bigger wings in the post.
Brewer excels at getting out on the break. He averages nearly four shot attempts at the rim per game because of his speed flying down the wing in transition.
Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash are always looking to push the tempo, and in Brewer the Lakers would finally have someone who could threaten a defense with his pace filling the lane.
Unfortunately Brewer is almost a non-factor on offense in the half court. He likes spotting up from the corners and isn't shy about letting it fly from there, shooting nearly four threes per game despite a horrid 29.5-percent conversion rate.
If the Nuggets don't re-sign him, Brewer may be available for cheap.
Chase Budinger got off to a strong start this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves before missing extended time with a knee injury. He's recently returned and seems to have picked up right where he left off.
Budinger hasn't found his three-point stroke yet this year, but the sample size has been tiny. He's an accomplished shooter who connected on 40 percent of his treys last season.
He also has good size and excellent athleticism, which makes him an adept defender when he puts his mind to it. It also allows him to rebound the ball very well and finish around the basket at an elite level. Budinger has converted nearly 69 percent of his attempts at the rim this year, per Hoopdata.
Thus far the Timberwolves have been 15.6 points per 100 possessions better with Budinger on the court. Most of that has to do with the minuscule sample size, but it shows the positive effect he can have on a team.
Budinger is on a minimum deal and coming off an injury. Between the missed games and playing in Minnesota, he may be a bit of a forgotten man. He's someone the Lakers should look to pounce on as he continues to develop.
Don't forget: Dwight Howard is still set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Re-signing Howard is at the top of the Lakers' offseason to-do list. Without Howard, Los Angeles really has no future, given its aging core and disproportionate salary structure.
If Howard walks and leaves L.A. holding the bag, the Lakers would have to wait a full year to start the rebuilding process because they are still capped out even without Howard's max contract on the books.
The Lakers own Howard's Bird rights so they can offer him an extra year and a little more cash.
But remember, we're still only two months away from people confidently predicting Dwight's departure, and with his moodiness it's no guarantee he'll stay.
If the Lakers don't take care of Howard right away, the rest of free agency becomes a moot point.