Although the immediate future looks barren for the Los Angeles Lakers, there is still some potential for competitiveness within the roster.
Maximizing talent and establishing roles is crucial for the Lakers to have any sort of success next season without Dwight Howard manning the middle.
Objectively, the most prudent course the Lakers need to take long-term is to tank this season, garner a high draft pick and re-establish themselves via the draft and free agency following next season. However, any team with an assassin like Kobe Bryant couldn't hope to tank a season no matter how deficient the talent.
To try and compete up to the Black Mamba's expectations, there are few players on the roster who are going to have to step up and play a bigger role than is expected of them.
Jordan Hill has always been an exceptional talent. While that talent has never translated into All-Star quality production, Hill is always consistent with his rebounding and his hustle.
This upcoming season, the Lakers are going to need Hill to become a bigger force in the interior.
His rebounding and help defense need to continue being constants. However, in order for the Lakers to mitigate the losses they are going to feel following Dwight Howard's departure, they are going to need Hill to eclipse 20 minutes per game and gobble up close to 10 rebounds per game.
Hill has never averaged over 16 minutes per game during any stretch of his career.
While it may be unrealistic to expect Hill to become an All-Star-caliber player out of nowhere, it is reasonable to expect Hill to man the middle for extended minutes at the center position given the Lakers' lack of depth.
Pau Gasol may see the lion's share of the minutes at center and power forward, but Hill will see the majority of the minutes playing either alongside Gasol or substituting for him.
In order for the Lakers to see any sort of success, Steve Nash is going to have to play at least 30 minutes per game while averaging double digits in both points and assists.
Nash may be injury prone as he enters the twilight of his career, but the Lakers are going to need the veteran to reinvigorate his career.
Outside of Pau Gasol, there isn't a natural creator on the team besides Nash. Kobe Bryant may have shown flashes of being a great facilitator last season, but the Lakers are going to need Nash to orchestrate the offense in order to maximize the limited amount of offensive weapons on the team.
To do this, Nash is going to have to stay healthy, durable and consistent on offense.
While this may be a bit much to ask from Nash at this stage of his career, it is absolutely essential if the Lakers are to make any sort of playoff push.
Jodie Meeks carved himself a great reputation as a three-point shooter and stout defender as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
During his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, Meeks put up almost identical numbers to the ones he put up during his final year with the 76ers.
Under the glaring media spotlight, Meeks offensive and defensive flaws became more apparent.
While he is still a consistent shooter, Meeks isn't a great creator for himself. He's a spot-up shooter, and his biggest threat is still his outside shooting.
In order for the Lakers to succeed this year, Meeks is going to have to develop as a more consistent defender as well as a more versatile offensive player.
Returning from a stint overseas, Jordan Farmar is going to have to step in and immediately become a productive sixth man.
Assuming Kobe Bryant returns and is much like his old self, the Lakers should have a solid rotation at the guard positions if Farmar is able to be as productive as he was during his initial tenure with the Lakers.
A rotation of Steve Nash, Bryant, Farmar and Jodie Meeks can hold up against the less dominant guard rotations in the league.
In order for this rotation to have any sort of punch, Farmar is going to have to step up and produce close to the 12 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals per game he averaged in the 2008-2009 season.
Given Nash's durability issues and Meeks' inconsistencies, Farmar should have plenty of opportunities to carve out a niche as a sixth man.
Despite Pau Gasol's health issues last season, he showed that he still had a lot of gas left in the tank.
When he was healthy, Gasol displayed the versatility that made him such a dominant interior force during the Lakers' latest two title runs.
This season, Gasol is going to have to reproduce the 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game he averaged last season without missing over 30 games like he did last season.
More importantly, Gasol is going to be needed to help Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant orchestrate the offense more than he did last season.
Dwight Howard's absence leaves Gasol free to operate the middle without opposition. His increased amount of touches should help him alleviate some of the pressure off of Kobe Bryant's shoulders.