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Ranking 2014 Superstar Free Agents by Fit with Kobe Bryant and LA Lakers

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2013

Ranking 2014 Superstar Free Agents by Fit with Kobe Bryant and LA Lakers

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    Based on the current makeup of their roster, the Los Angeles Lakers look they'll be a fringe playoff team in 2013-14. But that's quite alright, because reinforcements will be on their way in the summer of 2014. 

    As long as Kobe Bryant has been with the Lakers, the term "mediocre" has not been in the Lakers' lexicon, evident by the team's one missed playoff appearance in the Mamba era (2004-05). 

    The class of superstars set to hit free agency in 2014 is mind-blowing, and that doesn't even factor in restricted free agents such as Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins. For the purposes of this slideshow, RFAs will not be included because their teams retain the right to match any offers they receive next summer. 

    It should also be noted that this list is a ranking by fit alongside Bryant and is not based strictly on the talent of prospective free agents. 

    One final housekeeping note: This list was made assuming that Kobe will remain in Los Angeles past this season and Pau Gasol will not (he would need to take a serious pay cut to stick around). Steve Nash remains signed through the 2014-15 season. 

5. Dirk Nowitzki

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    2014 Free-Agent Classification: Unrestricted

     

    Dirk Nowitzki is a diverse, floor-stretching scoring option who would conceivably work well alongside Kobe Bryant. 

    However, the German sharpshooter will be 36 years old when free agency opens next summer, and paired with a 36-year-old Bryant, he would hardly be able to rejuvenate a franchise in need of a serious facelift. 

    Dirk's offensive gifts are historically significant. But while he would undoubtedly be able to create magic as Kobe's sidekick, he's likely not the solution Jim Buss has in mind.

    While the Lakers have a track record of throwing money at stars past their prime (see: Gary Payton and Karl Malone), it would be a mistake to place pressure on an aging Nowitzki to help bring Kobe his sixth ring.  

     

4. Dwyane Wade

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    2014 Free-Agent Classification: Early termination option

     

    Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant established some chemistry on the Olympic stage, most notably in 2008. This tremendous alley-oop from Wade to Bryant is just one example.  

    But for all of their national team success, it's difficult to imagine Bryant and Wade suiting up next to each other in purple and gold. 

    Both Wade and Bryant play the 2, not to mention Wade is hardly the floor-stretcher the Los Angeles Lakers need by Bryant's side. 

    While Wade hit a career-high 52.1 percent of his field-goal attempts last season, he shot a miserable 25.8 percent from three, the second-worst mark of his career. 

    And, according to Basketball-Reference, Wade wasn't an effective scorer outside of the restricted area last year. In 2012-13, he knocked down 38.5 percent of his attempts between 10 and 15 feet, and a shade under 40 percent of his looks between 16 feet and the three-point line. 

    Factor in Wade's balky knees, and there just doesn't seem to be a proper fit there. 

3. Chris Bosh

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    2014 Free-Agent Classification: Early termination option 

     

    He may be the butt of many a joke, but Chris Bosh is a bona fide All-Star with superstar credentials. 

    For his career, Bosh averages 19.5 points (on 49.6 percent shooting), 8.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He's also made eight straight All-Star games, and according to Basketball-Reference, he has a .948 probability of being elected to the Hall of Fame, which ranks 10th among active players. 

    And although he's not a prototypical low-post center, Bosh's face-up game is among the league's most polished. He hit on an impressive 49.4 percent of his shots between 16 feet and the three-point line last season.

    Even better, Bosh isn't a needy star. 

    Since joining the Miami Heat, Bosh has been a willing sidekick alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Last season, Bosh shot a career-best 53.5 percent from the floor on 12.3 attempts per game, the lowest mark since his rookie year. 

    Bosh also tied his career high in the true shooting percentage department with a mark of 59.2, according to Basketball-Reference. 

    His name and his game aren't as flashy as some of the other stars mentioned on this list, but there's no denying that Bosh's efficiency and selflessness would be welcome additions alongside Kobe Bryant. 

2. LeBron James

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    2014 Free-Agent Classification: Early termination option 

     

    When the most polarizing franchise in the NBA has even the slightest chance to sign the greatest talent the Association has seen in decades, things are bound to get crazy. 

    What awaits is the LeBron James free-agent hysteria of 2014. All of the speculation could be quelled in an instant if James was forthright and announced his decision to extend his stay with the Miami Heat, but it seems unlikely that we'll see the back-to-back champ make any sort of proclamation in-season, for it would be far too big a distraction. 

    According to HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy, the Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to lure James to L.A. And why wouldn't they? 

    The Lakers may be the most influential NBA brand, and they can present LeBron an opportunity to accrue championships alongside Kobe Bryant and then become the face of the franchise once Bryant retires. Should James opt out of his deal and explore a wide range of options next summer, the Lakers will undoubtedly be in the running for his services.

    But how does he fit in, not just with Kobe, but with the Lakers?

    As we've learned over the past three seasons, James can adapt in an instant. Playing next to a player who craves shots like Kobe sounds like a daunting proposition, but if there's anyone who can make it work, it's James.

    LeBron is arguably the most selfless superstar the league has seen since Magic Johnson. In fact, according to Basketball-Reference, James posted an assist percentage of 36.4 last season, which bested Steve Nash's by nearly four points.  

    The problem wouldn't be the contrasting playing styles of Kobe and LeBron. It would be the immense pressure and expectations that follow stars when they decide L.A. is the place they'd like to craft their legacy. 

    James and Bryant could establish a dynamic and potent two-man game, but in the end, it's difficult to envision James bolting for the bright lights of the West Coast when he's got a good thing going in South Beach. 

1. Carmelo Anthony

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    2014 Free-Agent Classification: Early termination option 

     

    The Anthony-Bryant marriage is a puzzling one at first glance. Both love their jump shots, and lots of them. Carmelo (28.7 points per game) and Kobe (27.3 points per game) finished first and third, respectively, in scoring last season, averaging a combined 42 field-goal attempts per game.

    According to ESPN, those 42 combined attempts would have made up nearly 52 percent of the Lakers' shots each game last season. 

    However, there's no denying that pairing Anthony with Bryant could work, particularly when you consider how Kobe's offensive game has transformed in recent years. 

    Kobe's expanded repertoire of post moves has injected new life into his game. Last season, he hit on 46.2 percent of his shots between three and 10 feet, a near-five point improvement over his mark of 41.8 percent from 2011-12, according to Basketball-Reference

    Anthony's transition to the 4 in Mike Woodson's offense has shown that he's not limited to pull-up and catch-and-shoot jumpers, and given post touches, he can be quite effective. Carmelo's PER of 24.8 last season was the highest mark of his career by 2.6 points, as well. 

    The icing on the cake here? Bryant's desire to see Anthony move out West.

    In a 2011 report from HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy, Bryant sang Anthony's praises due to his abilities presence in the post: 

    I would actually like to play with Melo. Championships are won on the inside and I’m always thinking about winning the title. I would love to play with Melo because I would know that I have an inside presence. That’s really been the biggest strength with our Lakers team.

    Elsewhere, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times has discussed the friendship the two prolific scorers share, while ESPN LA's Arash Markazi has tweeted Stephen A. Smith's preliminary reporting regarding Anthony's decision next summer. Hint: The Lakers are in the running for Anthony's services. 

    It feels like a strange match on the surface, but Anthony and Bryant would quickly become the NBA's most feared one-two scoring punch should they ultimately join forces in L.A. 

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