In the aftermath of the Dwight Howard fiasco, the Lakers did manage to sign center Chris Kaman to replace Howard, and they also added another outside shooter in California native Nick Young, signing them both to one-year deals.
However, neither one of those signings is expected to have a championship impact, and even if Kobe Bryant makes a full recovery from his Achilles injury and is ready for the season opener, the Lakers will still struggle to qualify for the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
There are silver linings in every cloud, and for the Lakers, the forecast is expected to change dramatically once we arrive to the summer of 2014.
If the Lakers fail to make the postseason, they should have a lottery pick in one of the deepest NBA Drafts in recent memory—not to mention only one player under contract at the time.
At the conclusion of next season, Steve Nash will be the only Laker officially on the books, which means one of the greatest franchises in the history of the NBA will have enough money to immediately change the course of its future.
Preserving that financial flexibility is crucial for numerous reasons, and in the following slides, we will explore a few of the most important ones.
It's difficult to place a monetary value on what Kobe and Pau Gasol have meant to the Lakers' franchise since their marriage begin early in 2008, but it's a little easier to predict how valuable each player is going forward.
Consider, the NBA's salary cap is expected to be around $59 million for the upcoming season, and the Lakers' two biggest stars currently have expiring contracts that are worth a combined $50 million.
In today's NBA, that type of money could possibly bring the Lakers three max-contract players. And imagine how interesting it could get if Los Angeles managed to find someone to take the $9.7 million Nash is owed for the 2014 season?
No Lakers fan will ever forget the two championships and three NBA Finals appearances that have resulted from the pairing of Kobe and Pau. And ironically, their expiring contracts could mean just as much to the Lakers' future.
The Lakers would be crazy not to add their names to the list of teams who will be vying for the services of the NBA's best player, but the future of the Lakers will not begin or end with James.
Of course it would be nice to replace one of the greatest players to ever lace them up with the NBA's greatest player right now, but if you haven't noticed, there are quite a few other quality players who may be looking for a new home next summer.
Carmelo Anthony, John Wall, Paul George and Greg Monroe are just a few of the players who could potentially be available when the Lakers go looking next summer, and any of them could have an immediate impact on the Lakers' rebuilding project.
Some people believe that the Lakers' decision to retain head coach Mike D'Antoni ultimately led to Dwight Howard choosing Houston over Los Angeles, but does anyone really believe the Lakers would have really kept D'Antoni if that was what Howard's decision hinged on?
My guess is that Howard had made it pretty clear he wasn't returning to Los Angeles, and the Lakers chose to keep D'Antoni as a placeholder for their next coach.
Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss will not admit it, but D'Antoni's first season was a disaster, and it was revealed there is little substance beyond his seven-seconds-or-less approach to offense.
In 2014-15, the Lakers will field a team that is virtually unrecognizable from the squad who will grace the court for the Lakers this season, and that bit of truth should extend to the sidelines as well.
Can anyone tell me who the Los Angeles Lakers were the past two seasons?
Former coach Mike Brown was supposed to be a defensive specialist, but the Lakers were a horrible defensive team during his tenure, and D'Antoni has been categorized as an offensive genius, but I couldn't tell from the Lakers' disheveled approach last season.
When Phil Jackson was coaching, you knew the Lakers would defend, rebound and run the triangle offense. But since he departed, the replacements have failed to establish a real identity on either end of the floor.
That should change next summer since the expected franchise-cleaning process should bring new players as well as a new identity and approach to the future.
The Lakers have been through trying times before, but if you were to believe some of the stuff floating around right now, you would think the Lakers' franchise is over.
More than a few people seem to think Howard's departure signals the end of one of the most amazing runs in professional basketball history, but obviously those people have failed to pay attention to the past.
Of course, the deceased Dr. Jerry Buss and former general manager Jerry West deserve much of the credit for the franchise's sustained excellence, and unfortunately neither of them are with the Lakers any longer.
However, Kupchak has shown his ability to build a team, and if the rest of the Buss family can convince Jim to assume a lower profile, it could be a short rise back to prominence for the Lakers.
Success has been a constant for the Lakers regardless of what superstar is wearing the blue and gold uniform, and with a pocket full of dollars and the draw of the L.A. lifestyle, that should resume next summer.