Biggest Issues LA Lakers Must Address This Offseason
Despite the success the Los Angeles Lakers' had pushing their way back into the playoff picture, there is no doubt that there are a myriad of issues the Lakers have to worry about during the offseason.
While Kobe Bryant's injury has brought a strange dynamic to the Lakers' choices in the offseason, it is apparent that an end of an era is coming.
With Jim Buss trying to carve a niche outside of his father's shadows, there is no telling how these issues will be handled.
Dwight Howard's future, the lingering amnesty clause and various other issues that cloud the Lakers' future are the breaking points regarding whether or not the Lakers can remain competitive in a very competitive Western Conference.
However, while the Lakers rarely missed the playoffs during the Bryant era, their success in the next era hinges on the moves made during this offseason.
1. Dwight Howard's Future
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Re-signing Dwight Howard is perhaps the most important offseason move the Los Angeles Lakers need to make.
With Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard forging a formidable dynamic between them, it is apparent that the Lakers will be able to retain the advantage they've had ever since Gasol and Andrew Bynum dominated the front court during their championship seasons.
The biggest obstacle to Howard's full commitment to the Lakers is the fact that he'll have to play second fiddle to Kobe Bryant.
However, Bryant's injury brings up an interesting dynamic.
This will be the first playoff series the Lakers will play in roughly a decade and a half without Bryant, which gives Howard an excellent opportunity to experience being the alpha male on a big market team.
If Howard is willing to play second fiddle to Bryant until he retires, he'll inherit the keys to perhaps the most storied franchise in the league.
Despite the wishes and optimism regarding Bryant's recovery, it is conventional wisdom to expect a big athletic drop off for the Mamba once he returns from his torn Achilles tendon.
This may speed up the transition from Bryant to Howard as the franchise player. Although it may be ludicrous to wish that Bryant's injury will significantly hinder his game, perhaps a weakened Mamba may lead to a motivated Howard.
Though Bryant's alpha-male status may be the biggest obstacle to re-signing Howard, his injury may ultimately lead to Howard's commitment to the Lakers.
2. Mike D'Antoni's Status
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With Phil Jackson putting himself back into the market, the Los Angeles Lakers need to make a decision regarding Mike D'Antoni.
While the Lakers have surged as of late, there is no doubt that D'Antoni has been controversial and seemingly detrimental to the team as a whole.
One of the Lakers' keys to their recent play has been the combination of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, who have dominated the paint in the same manner Gasol and Andrew Bynum used to. Despite this, D'Antoni was against playing Howard and Gasol together for the majority of the season because it did not fit in with his system.
Although Kobe Bryant had taken more of a facilitating role as the season neared its end, it took almost the entire season for D'Antoni to finally adjust his system and allow the ball to work out of the high-post rather than trying to force the run-and-gun style he utilized in Phoenix.
D'Antoni is a man with an uncompromising vision. With that being said, despite the Lakers' successes recently, it is clear that D'Antoni is not the man to maximize the skill sets on this team. His system simply does not fit.
While relieving him of his duty will make D'Antoni the second coach (after Mike Brown) to earn a paycheck next season for sitting at home on his couch, perhaps it is the best basketball move.
Inking Jackson to a deal will not only be popular with the fans, it'll be popular with the players.
The triangle offense is a triple-post system that can utilize Howard, Gasol and eventually Bryant, upon his return, in an offense that will cater to their strengths.
3. Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark's Futures
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Despite the inconsistency of the Lakers' bench this season, perhaps the three most important role players have been Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake and Earl Clark.
However, out of the three, only Blake remains under contract next season.
Therefore, the Lakers need to make a decision on whether to re-sign the other two role players.
Antawn Jamison is entering the twilight of his career. Thus, he'll sign with any contender that is in need of his services.
Although the Lakers signed him for under a million dollars this season, his resurgent play as the season concluded may warrant a slight pay raise.
Unless the Lakers offer him the right deal, Jamison could very well end up on another team to try and compete for a championship.
Averaging career highs in almost every statistical category, Earl Clark may also be in line for a huge pay raise. He is definitely going to be worth more than his $1,240,000 contract this season.
If the Lakers are to compete next season, they are going to need to retain the services of these two or try and replace them.
4. Pau Gasol's Future
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Pau Gasol's recent play as of late has been a huge boon to the Lakers.
Of course, the most obvious reason is that Gasol has been a major factor in the Lakers' recent winning ways.
Becoming a high-post facilitator and scorer for the Lakers, Gasol has proven that he is a triple-double threat on a nightly basis.
However, perhaps a more important reason his play has been a positive for the Lakers is that he has vastly increased his trade value.
Owed over 19 million dollars next season, has value for teams expecting both a valuable player as well as an expiring contract.
There are several ways the Lakers can play this.
They can either trade Gasol for some young talent given his expiring contract, or they can amnesty him and use the cap space to sign players on the free-agency market.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing they can do is allow Gasol to play out the final year of his contract. If the Lakers can't get him to re-sign, they would have lost him for nothing.
Without a commitment from Gasol that he would re-sign, the Lakers' best bet would be to deal him before the trade deadline or use the amnesty clause on him.
5. Kobe Bryant's Future
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Kobe Bryant's estimated return date lies within the six-to-nine month range.
With that being said, Bryant is 34 years old. At such an age, even an athlete with impeccable conditioning like the Black Mamba will be hard-pressed to return and perform with the same level of athleticism.
Although Bryant will definitely return to finish off his career on his own terms, there is a legitimate question regarding whether or not he can still be the alpha male after his return from injury.
Therefore, if the Lakers wish to solidify the post-Bryant era and officially crown Dwight Howard their new centerpiece, perhaps using the amnesty clause on Bryant may be the best move.
While the Lakers' fans will be venomously opposed to this, there is no question that this move will shed the last remnants of Jerry Buss' tenure and allow Jim Buss to forge his own legacy with his own roster.
If Jim Buss wishes to follow in that vein, using the amnesty clause on Bryant will help alleviate Bryant's over $30 million contract from their cap space.
At this point in career, Bryant would want to retire as a Laker and solidify his legacy there. Thus, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that the Lakers could re-sign him at a discount the following season after using the amnesty clause on him.