The Los Angeles Lakers franchise didn't die when Dwight Howard decided to take his talents to Houston, and for legions of Lakers detractors who suggest otherwise, simply look no further than the summer of 2014.
The Lakers may be down right now, but no other franchise in NBA history has ever rebuilt as quickly as Los Angeles, and the stars may be aligning for a return to contender status even faster than most imagined.
If the Lakers fail to qualify for the 2014 postseason, they have a lottery selection in the first round of what some are calling the deepest NBA draft in recent memory.
Even if the Lakers fail to land Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, who are considered the best players in next year's draft class, there are still others who have the talent and ability to have an immediate impact, such as Kentucky's Julius Randle.
When it comes to the NBA draft, there is no such thing as a sure-fire guarantee, regardless of what some analysts would have you think. But the Lakers' 2014 first-round pick is only one component of the optimism surrounding the franchise's future.
As most people know, point guard Steve Nash should be the only Laker under contract at the conclusion of next season, which means the Lakers will have plenty of money to throw around at an impressive 2014 free-agency class.
And that could be a very scary prospect for the rest of the NBA—unrestricted status or not.
For some reason, there is a theory that says most of the restricted free agents will be off-limits to the Lakers since their current teams hold the right to match any offer made by another team. But that doesn't mean said player will be comfortable with that match.
The potential to earn maximum money is a big thing, but LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala are some of the biggest names to switch teams, proving money isn't the only thing.
Sometimes players switch teams in order to win rings, improve their marketability or simply be part of something bigger than they have ever encountered before.
The Lakers offer potential free agents all three. Plus, they have the cash to make it real in addition to a valuable 2014 first-round pick if needed to complete a sign-and-trade deal.
Of course, this is all dependent on whether or not Wall's and Cousin's teams decide to match the Lakers' potential offers, but imagining either player in Los Angeles is not impossible.
Wall and Cousins are two players I have heard mentioned as potentially available but unattainable for the Lakers. But unless your name is LeBron, you will probably listen when the Lakers come calling.
Los Angeles has a history, lifestyle, legacy and commitment to sustain excellence that few teams can match, and next season, for the first time in recent memory, the Lakers will have the financial freedom to exploit those advantages.
The last time I can remember the Lakers having enough cash to land a high-impact free agent, they signed Shaquille O'Neal—a player who helped usher in a new era of championship relevance.
Next summer the Lakers should have enough money to sign two.
I wouldn't expect for the Lakers to sign any players for more than the two years they offered recent signees Nick Young and Chris Kaman, and if they make any trades, the players they receive will likely have expiring contracts.
It's important for the Lakers to enter next summer with as much financial flexibility as possible, in part because of how badly the Howard situation was handled. But thanks to Howard, the Lakers have the rare opportunity to make it right, almost immediately.
Few teams ever get the chance for the type of do-over the Lakers will receive next summer, and here's hoping that general manager Mitch Kupchak and team president Jim Buss will wield their power wisely.