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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.
LeBron James can potentially opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat in that summer and sign with another team.
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.