It’s clear things didn’t go as well as expected for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2012-13 season. This was a team many expected to compete for an NBA title, yet it barely slipped into the back end of the playoffs and was swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs.
The Lakers are likely to have the same championship aspirations in 2013-14, only they’re going to need to make drastic improvements without significantly changing their roster. That’s because L.A. has already committed $68 million toward players, and that figure is sure to increase to over $80 million-plus when and if Dwight Howard re-signs.
The good thing for Los Angeles is that it still has a nucleus of very talented players. It also figures to have plenty of flexibility during the 2014 offseason, with only Steve Nash and Dwight Howard (assuming he returns) on the books.
Because of that, the Lakers will need to try and make it work by signing undervalued assets or players at the back end of their careers who are willing to sign for the veteran minimum or the mini mid-level exception. This way the team can help fill its holes without eliminating options for the 2014 offseason.
Even then, the Lakers need to make sure they’re signing the right players. Bringing in the right niche pieces who fit in this system can help bring everything together. But bring in the wrong players and things are sure to fall apart all over again.
Note: This slideshow was compiled based on a couple assumptions. The first assumption is that Dwight Howard will return. This means a starting-caliber center isn’t a priority, and the team won’t have much cap space to work with. The second assumption is that no drastic trades will be made, such as dealing Pau Gasol. So largely, it’s about figuring out which players will fit based on a situation of little cap space to work with.