The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of work to do and decisions to make this offseason. After finishing 2013 with an extremely disappointing record of 45-37, LA must make a choice on nine free agents, four of whom are restricted.
Kobe Bryant is recovering from a torn Achilles and Steve Nash is another year older. Pau Gasol doesn’t get along with coach Mike D’Antoni, and Dwight Howard, the most notable of those nine free agents, has given no indication that he will return to the Lakers next season.
All is not well in Laker-land.
The team will not return all nine of those players, but some of them are worth giving a second shot. If Howard leaves and joins another team, odds are the Lakers won’t be very good in 2014, but they will have the luxury of giving some of their young, raw players an opportunity to see serious minutes and begin building towards 2015.
There are a lot of questions about the future of the Lakers, but more importantly about next season. Will D’Antoni adjust his coaching style to fit the roster or stick with his same scheme? When will the Mamba come back? Can Nash be productive and remain healthy? Who will the team pursue in free agency outside of D12?
All of those are viable questions, and ones that need to be asked of the Lakers going into 2014. Next season has the potential to be catastrophic for Los Angeles, but there is a possibility that they can still be a playoff team even without Howard. Bryant needs to have a speedy recovery and Gasol and Nash must click on the pick-and-roll in addition to consistent contributions from role players.
That’s a long way off, though. The issue that is right in front of the Lakers’ front office is free agency. Who should the team bring back and who should they let walk? Keep reading to find out who made the cut and should be back in purple and gold next season.
According to McMenamin, "if World Peace opts into the final $7.7 million owed to him on his contract, the Lakers will almost assuredly use their amnesty clause to waive him."
It’s a tough move, but one LA must make to free up space to pursue other free agents. World Peace was a sound defender but didn’t fit in with Mike D’Antoni’s offense, shooting just 40.3 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range in 2013.
was the only rookie on LA’s roster this season, and was given very limited opportunity to prove himself. The first-year center from Gonzaga saw just 6.3 minutes a night and contributed 1.3 points per game.
The Lakers’ roster will be extremely small if Dwight Howard decides to bolt, with Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol as the only other frontcourt big men on the team. However, if Howard does decide to rejoin the Lakers, the team will really have no use for Sacre.
If anything, the team could bring Sacre back at a minimum deal, but that would only be after all of the more major pieces fall into place. For now, all Sacre can do is wait and see what happens, as that will likely determine whether or not he's back in LA.
The Lakers have a team option on Jodie Meeks that they can exercise and use to bring him back in 2014. Meeks shot an inconsistent 38.7 percent from the field this season, but contributed about 8 points per game.
Meeks is currently the only shooting guard on the roster other than Kobe Bryant, who is currently recovering from surgery to repair his torn Achilles. The time frame for when Bryant will be back to full health is up in the air, so the team would be wise to bring back a SG with as much enthusiasm and upside as Meeks.
According to McMenamin:
My shooting was up and down this season for whatever reason. I’ll be ready to come back next year and (get better); this system fits me perfectly and (Mike D’Antoni) has a lot of confidence in me,” Meeks said at after his exit interview.
Darius Morris has shown flashes of promise and glimpses of disappointment in two seasons in Los Angeles.
He started 17 games this season, but D’Antoni didn’t trust his decision-making with the ball in addition to his dipping shooting percentage. Because of his coach’s lack of trust, Morris played in just seven games after the All-Star break.
However, Morris has proved that he's got game. He averaged 10.5 points and three assists in the first round the playoffs, and put up 14 points and four assists in two starts in the postseason.
The Lakers may have to make a choice between Andrew Goudelock and Morris—both point guards are restricted free agents. However, the team could opt to bring the two of them back in hopes that they both mature and improve their games in the offseason.
However, Goudelock has more upside than Morris, who couldn’t do what the eventual D-League MVP did this season—make the most of the opportunity he was given.
Antawn Jamison put together a quality season for the Lakers in 2013. Despite his 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds off the bench, the 14-year veteran clashed with D’Antoni and struggled to accept his role on the team.
Jamison is 36 years old and LA is starting to build towards the future. Jamison will probably not retire in the offseason, but it is unlikely that he’ll be a Laker in 2014. The team will need all of the roster spots and money that it can get if they are going to try and sign younger, more athletic players off the bench.
Say what you will about Andrew Goudelock, but the 24-year-old point guard made the most out of his opportunities this season.
He was cut by the Lakers in training camp, was sent to the Developmental League, became the MVP of the D-League and then was signed by LA after Bryant was injured. It was a whirlwind of events, but in the end, Goudelock proved himself to be NBA-ready.
He averaged 17 points per game in two starts against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs while shooting 44 percent in the first round. Despite the fact that he was given limited time throughout the season, Goudelock certainly proved himself to be an NBA player.
With Steve Nash, who’ll be a free agent next summer, getting older, Chris Duhon likely getting bought out by the team and Steve Blake becoming a free agent in 2014, the team can’t have enough good, young players in the backcourt.
Ebanks is a free agent and will not be re-signed by the Lakers.
“Next season, I’m going to look around and weigh my options as far as other teams next year,” Ebanks said at his exit interview. “I just want to thank (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and the Lakers organization for giving me an opportunity the last three years.”
Ebanks is a nice, young player, but he took a step back this season as his production dropped in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. He played 10.4 minutes in just 19 appearances this season, and will look to sign with a team where he will be given a bigger role in 2014
In his first season with the Lakers, Earl Clark made the most of every opportunity. He put up career-best numbers of 7.3 points, 1.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game this season.
Clark is an unrestricted free agent and did enough this season to earn himself a spot on some NBA roster next season. But the New Jersey-native wants to be back in Los Angeles in 2014.
“I want to be a Laker,” Clark, who becomes a free agent this summer, said at his exit interview. “I had an opportunity to show what I can do. If we have a training camp, we can show what we can do. Hope everything works out.”
If everything works out for both sides and the Lakers can find the right price, Clark will be back in LA next season.
Well, this isn’t a hard one.
Obviously the Lakers are going to try to bring back Dwight Howard, the best center in the NBA. The only problem is that D12 might not want to come back to Los Angeles.
Howard will be a free agent on July 1st and has shown interest in the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and (most notably) the Houston Rockets. D12 loves all of the attention that comes with decisions like this, and he very well may have his mind made up already.
Nonetheless, the Lakers will do all that they can to bring back Howard, who averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in 2013.
Verdict: (Try to) Keep