The Los Angeles Lakers are stuck in a rough place right now, wedged between truly contending for a championship and bottoming out for a high pick in the loaded 2014 draft.
However, the team may not be mired in the NBA’s version of purgatory for long, as the front office apparently has grandiose plans to make a major splash less than a year from now.
According to ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, the Lakers are targeting both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency next summer, a bold move that most other franchises would be mocked and derided for even dreaming about.
Besides the fact that LBJ and ‘Melo may not even be available and must first elect to opt out of their respective contracts, it would take a lot to get both superstar forwards to abandon their current ships and take their talents to Hollywood.
However, the storied organization is known for its free agency and trade coups, as the Lakers have notably brought in Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant (via a draft-day deal), Dwight Howard and others at various junctures throughout their history.
Through a perfect combination of amazing location, shrewd front office chops, the recently deceased Dr. Jerry Buss’ unique take on ownership and other intangibles, the Lakers have remained one of the most consistently great franchises in all of sports.
That run will take a hiatus during the upcoming campaign, when a mediocre roster led by an aging Black Mamba—coming off of injury—Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are projected to wind up somewhere in the middle of the Western Conference standings.
Regardless, the Lakers will still have a leg to stand on next summer, when almost every player on the roster comes off of the books—with the notable exceptions of Nash’s $9.7 million expiring deal, Nick Young’s $1.2 million player option and Robert Sacre’s barely visible $915,243.
Will the Lakers completely rebuild next summer?
That is a lot of cap space for the team to work with, and that freed-up money could go toward inking at least two high-profile stars—such as James and Anthony—and a solid supporting cast to new deals.
Talented players like Luol Deng, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph and more will be available and likely commanding less than a maximum contract.
If the Lakers play their cards right, get a bit lucky and play up their unique advantages, they could return to the top of the NBA with one major offseason surge of signings.