The Los Angeles Lakers of 2012-13 may look very similar in 2013-14.
Obviously many things can change over the summer, and every season is a new experience. However, there are certain factors that may create a very similar result.
I know what fans are going to say: All the Lakers need to do is get healthy, sign a shooter or two, find a great defender that is willing to play for a minimum deal and everything will be fine.
If only it were that easy.
Think about this possible scenario:
Dwight Howard listens to other offers and allows himself to be wined and dined. After that he eventually goes for the max money, re-signs with Los Angeles and holds a passionate press conference where he says all the right things about continuing the great legacy of the Lakers.
Dwight hints at this in a recent tweet:
Kobe Bryant rehabs, returns ahead of schedule and is driven to prove that he has not lost a step. Prior to that, the summer is filled with talk about Kobe’s future and whether the team should (gasp) even think about the word amnesty. Even if the Lakers are tempted to take Bryant’s contract off the books, they fear an all-out revolt from the fanbase.
Pau Gasol sticks around. Despite all the talk about trading him for a couple of younger, more athletic players, the Lakers are unable to find a trade partner that will take his rather hefty contract. Plus, the Lakers realize that seven-foot men with great skills do not just grow on trees.
Steve Nash gets healthy, but is now one year older. This means that despite all of his basketball skill and experience, he remains an injury risk. He is an even greater liability on the defensive end.
If all of these factors remain, the Lakers are in a particular financial state. That state is one of very limited flexibility.
Who will help the Lakers if they remain in this particular existence? The same types of auxiliary players that have been coming in the last couple of seasons.
Think of a 35-year-old former star that is willing to play for the minimum—not the type of athlete that will be leading a youth movement.
Again, this is a worst case scenario view on the Lakers. Maybe Howard re-signs, Kobe rehabs quickly, Pau finds his rhythm and Nash stays healthy. Maybe the “big four” actually play together for stretches of the season. Maybe the Lakers pick up a cheap shooter that is able to stretch defenses. Maybe an affordable, one-dimensional, lockdown defender falls into their laps.
Los Angeles just has to be prepared for the possibility that next season could look very much like this season. Old players. Injuries. Lack of defensive ability. Poor chemistry.
It is hard to imagine the Kobe era ending with a walk-off jumper to win the championship. Anything is possible, but there are huge odds against this happening.
At some point, this team may need to truly rebuild rather than always trying to reload. It happens to the best of teams.
The fans should stay optimistic about next season, but it may turn out to be a sequel to a film that was not very good. It should be a very interesting summer.