Kobe Bryant (left) and Steve Nash (right).
The Los Angeles Lakers will make changes for the ensuing season with the hope of contending for a title. Thus, evaluating their needs for 2013-14 obviously comes into play.
Given the team’s current configuration, a couple of assumptions will be in order when determining the holes the team will fill in the offseason.
Mike D’Antoni is the head coach of the Lakers. In previous stints, he has favored a high-paced game with an emphasis on ball screens and three-point shooting.
Given that he did not have a training camp in 2012-13, he never truly obtained the opportunity to put his imprint on the team. This time around, he will have the Lakers from scratch.
Hence, the Purple and Gold will now be built in accordance with his principles.
In addition, Dwight Howard will enter the 2013 offseason as a free agent. It’s tough to predict with much certainty whether he will be back with the team.
With that said, we will operate under the premise Howard will be back with the team in determining its offseason needs.
No one saw the future quite like Mike D’Antoni. During his days coaching the Phoenix Suns from 2003-04 to 2007-08, D’Antoni believed in spreading the court and playing his five best players regardless of position.
The end result was an open floor with one big man surrounded by four shooters. The Suns coaching staff used Shawn Marion as their power forward given his athleticism, rebounding prowess and ability to stretch the floor.
In addition, Marion defended multiple positions. This gave the Suns flexibility on the defensive end, where he could switch on screens with most of his teammates and negate whatever advantage his opponents hoped for in an offensive set.
The obvious player the Lakers must look at in this situation is Josh Smith. He can duplicate some of what Marion executed for those Suns teams, and in addition, he is a superior passer.
To be fair, a little realism is in order, though. The Lakers will more than likely be in luxury tax territory in 2013-14 based on the salaries they have on the books. Thus, shedding some of their contracts is a must.
The Lakers could potentially build a sign-and-trade package around Pau Gasol and bring back Josh Smith. However, according to comments shared with Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Smith believes he is a max-level player. This means he more than likely desires a contract figure within the same ballpark as Gasol.
That’s where the Smith to L.A. discussion ends.
Instead, the Lakers will focus their efforts on players capable of occupying both forwards spots and make shots. And again, the player(s) in this spot must come relatively cheaply.
Ersan Ilyasova fits the mold. He is a good rebounder and solid shooter. In addition, his salary averages out to roughly $7.9 million annually, per Hoopshype. The one area of concern might be the duration of his contract.
Ilyasova is signed until the 2015-16 season, and the Milwaukee Bucks hold a team option permitting them to bring him back the following season. Having such a player on the books for a long period of time could complicate the Lakers’ 2014 free-agency plans.
There’s a fairly good list of players who can replicate what Ilyasova brings to the table, but they are typically locked into long-term contracts as well. Danilo Gallinari and Ryan Anderson come to mind.
Consequently, the Lakers could go in one of two routes here: They can take on a reclamation project on a short contract such as Charlie Villanueva. He has an $8.6 million player option for next season and would become a free agent in the 2014 offseason.
The other option involves trading for Andre Iguodala. Like Villanueva, he has a player option for the 2013-14 season and would then see his contract end in the summer of 2014. Mind you, taking on Iguodala requires the Lakers to absorb his $15.9 million salary.
But again, this requires Iguodala to opt in and remain with Denver heading into the 2013-14 season for the trade to take place. Short of that, the Lakers will scrape the waiver wire and look at players in the mold of Michael Beasley. Yes, I’m serious.
Lou Williams of the Atlanta Hawks.
The 2013 postseason highlighted the Lakers’ lack of perimeter playmaking outside of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Given the injury concerns with both players going into the 2013-14 campaign, the front office will more than likely look into finding guys capable of filling the void.
The Lakers could potentially get lucky on this front given the abundance of players available. The emphasis here is on serviceable players and not superstars or borderline All-Star talent.
For instance, Louis Williams’ 2012-13 season was cut short because of a right knee injury, but he is exactly what the Lakers need. He is a solid ball-handler who manufactures his own shot and creates looks for his teammates as evidenced by his five assists per 36 minutes.
He is under contract until the end of the 2014-15 season but has a modest salary, averaging roughly $5.3 million annually.
If the Lakers’ preference is to obtain players through free agency, the likes of Devin Harris, Nate Robinson, Shaun Livingston, Maurice Williams and Jarrett Jack will become available in the 2013 offseason.
Livingston might be an intriguing addition given his knack for passing the ball as well as the low dollar figures that teams will present him with. Per Hoopshype, the Cleveland Cavaliers paid him the modest sum of $806,323 in 2012-13.
Dorell Wright of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since becoming the head coach of the Phoenix Suns in 2003-04, Mike D’Antoni teams have consistently landed in the top five in three-point field-goal attempts in nine of the past 10 seasons. That includes his four-year stint with the New York Knicks and his one season coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.
Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume the Lakers will need shooters in 2013-14. It’s probably safe to assume management will look at Kyle Korver. He converted 45.7 percent of his three-pointers in 2012-13 and has made 41.9 percent of his career looks from downtown.
Granted, Korver might be a little out of the Lakers’ price range. J.J. Redick is a great shooter and above average defender, but those kinds of players have become increasingly valuable and consequently well compensated.
Nonetheless, guys like Anthony Morrow and Dorell Wright could substitute quite well in this spot. Wright in particular might attract interest because of his size. The Lakers could potentially use him at power forward against smaller units and spread the court with his shooting.
In 2012-13, the Los Angeles Lakers looked like an old team. They were lacking in athletes and consequently played quite slow. They were in the league’s bottom third in fast-break points per game.
In addition, the Lakers finished that very same campaign next to last in defending fast-break points, per Team Rankings.
Thus, the Purple and Gold need an infusion of youth, speed and explosiveness. Some energy guys to get out on the break and get some easy scores. Basically, the Lakers must target a few athletes.
The 2013 free-agency period should be filled with these types of players. Indeed, Gerald Green, Corey Brewer and Tony Allen to name a few will be available for the Lakers to potentially scoop up.
The previously mentioned players will come at bargain rates, which is important. The Lakers’ acquisitions in 2013 will come at fairly low prices given the concerns about adding salaries.