As Kobe Bryant’s career approaches its end, there are a few free agents that could potentially extend his title window. It’s a fairly interesting list, but we have to iron out a few details first.
Dwight Howard will embark on his free-agency tour. There is a distinct possibility he will not be back with the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Houston Rockets have emerged as the front-runners to acquire the big man.
Hence, we will operate under the idea that Howard is gone.
This leaves the Purple and Gold with a core of Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Bryant. The trio is surrounded by a group of underwhelming role players that should land the Lakers in luxury tax territory going into the 2013-14 season.
According to Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, teams cannot receive a player in a sign-and-trade transaction if their team salary is $4 million over the tax level at the conclusion of the trade. This means that any sign-and-trade involving the Lakers must bring back a substantially lower salary than the one leaving Los Angeles.
Granted, Mitch Kupchak could use the amnesty provision on one of the bigger salaries on the team and get below the apron. But we will continue with the roster as currently constructed when discussing potential free agents.
This means the Lakers have the taxpayer mid-level (also referred to as the mini-mid-level) at their disposal. It’s worth $3.183 million and can be split to sign multiple players. The deals cannot be more than three years in length. And one last disclaimer: The Lakers lose the ability to use this exception if they acquire a player via sign-and-trade.
Now that we’ve gotten the finances out of way, it’s time to discuss prospective free agents.
Given Bryant’s age, it’s probably fair to assume he will play two or three more seasons. Hence, any potential new player must be relatively young given that Bryant’s production will likely decrease. A younger player is not necessarily better, but he can adapt and take on a larger and more demanding role with a reduction in Bryant’s responsibilities.
Also, given the numerous health issues the Lakers faced in 2012-13, it’s best to stay away from players with injury histories (focusing primarily on their last three seasons). Instead, Kupchak will focus on players that can play multiple positions.
A talent that can plug multiple holes is extremely valuable. It gives the team someone that mitigates the negative impacts of foul trouble and injuries.