The 2013 NBA draft is taking the world by storm, free agency is just around the corner and all eyes remain on the Los Angeles Lakers. That has remained the case for decades on hand, as the most glamorous franchise in professional basketball never seems too far from the headlines.
So where do we stand with the latest Lakers chatter?
It's been an eventful week for the Lakers, as the rumor mill ran rampant and produced information that could forever alter the franchise's path. While some might view that as a form of hyperbole, it's far from the case.
Things are getting crazy in Los Angeles.
Dwight Howard Unlikely to Re-Sign
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, there is "very little chance" that Dwight Howard re-signs with the Lakers this summer. This comes one day after the Lakers placed a billboard outside of the Staples Center simply saying "Stay" with Howard's face plastered across it.
Per Broussard, all signs point towards D-12 passing up more money to play in a better system.
Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skill set, one source said.
The Lakers can offer Howard a five-year, $118 million contract, while other teams can pay him only $88 million over four years.
If this proves to be true, one of three teams will reap the benefits.
The three teams with a realistic shot at Howard are the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets. All three teams have respected head coaches and, potentially, the cap space to bring Howard on board.
Broussard reports that D-12 will meet with all three teams before he speaks with the Lakers and is prepared to make his decision as soon as July 10.
If Dwight Howard ends up signing elsewhere, the Los Angeles Lakers will be left with a major void in their rotation. Not only is Howard a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but L.A. lacks any form of depth behind their high-paid starters.
Here is the Lakers' plan if Dwight [Howard] leaves: Keep Pau [Gasol] for final year of his deal. Use amnesty provision to cut Metta [World Peace] and save $30 million in luxury-tax payments. Re-sign Earl Clark if reasonable, sign someone else on the cheap and/or plug in Meeks or Blake to the starting lineup that will have two vacancies without Dwight and Metta but still Pau. Jordan Hill is the only other frontcourt player under contract right now.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
At this point, we can't help but wonder how much general manager Mitch Kupchak regrets trading away his first round draft choices. This comes one year after the Lakers had two first rounders entering the 2012 NBA trade deadline, but dealt both away.
The Lakers haven't utilized a first round draft choice since 2009 and haven't kept their selection since Javaris Crittenton in 2007—how can anyone justify that?
What If Howard Stays?
While the risk is there for Dwight Howard to spurn the Los Angeles Lakers, there is an outside chance that he returns. If that is to be the case, the Lakers will have plenty of decisions to make in pertinence to their supporting cast.
The Lakers' plan if Dwight stays? Much different. Pau [Gasol] is all but a goner, most likely via amnesty provision to save more than $60 million in luxury-tax payments. The oft-traveled path of trying to trade Pau remains in play if Dwight stays -- though a scenario that brings back some talent and doesn't cause payroll risks for the future is so far unknown.
Metta [World Peace], not Pau, gets to stay for the final season on his Lakers' contract. Earl Clark remains a candidate to return because Pau's power-forward spot would be open.
One way or another, this roster is going to change.
Without any form of youth or athleticism, the Lakers lack rising stars that can be groomed into future starters. Instead, L.A. will enter free agency with the hope of re-signing Howard and freeing up enough cap space to surround him with stars in 2014.
A waiting process that could result in D-12 signing on for a more certain deal elsewhere.
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