There haven’t been many bright spots for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Doom and gloom has surrounded L.A., but Laker Nation should not get too depressed. If Mitch Kupchak and the notorious Jim Buss play their cards right, the 2016-2017 season very well could be an NBA championship year for the Purple and Gold.
How in the world will they go from this season at a current record of (16-28) to an NBA title in just three years? Well the blueprint is laid out for them with multiple possibilities.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary franchise has a total of 16 NBA championships and is looking to add to that total as soon as possible. With the upcoming NBA draft and free-agent acquisitions in the summer of 2015 as well as the summer of 2016, the Lake Show will be primed for another title run, bringing the team back to prominence once again.
This All Sounds Good but What’s the Catch?
In order to get to that level of success again, the Lakers will have to suffer through at least one more year of being a relatively bad basketball team. Obviously it can’t get much worse than it currently is, and next year should see improvement, but certainly nothing drastic.
If they can be patient and spend their money wisely this offseason, the doors will open to make major moves and set the team up for huge success down the road.
I know it’s tough to sit and watch the Lakers stink up the place, but in just a couple years, they’ll be back at a championship level. Part of that future success could be because of the tanking job they are pulling off this season.
I’m not saying to deliberately tank on purpose, but more like stay on the current pace of losing (15 losses in last 18 games), while still keeping games interesting for the fans. By keeping this up, they should position themselves for a top-10 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
2014 NBA Draft
The Lakers typically do not rebuild through the draft, but with their current situation and a more-than-likely top-10 pick, they have the opportunity to make a real splash in the draft for the first time in quite a while. The 2014 NBA draft will likely have one of the deepest prospect pools in years, led by the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.
Although it is unlikely that the Lakers will be in the position to draft one of those three, they will still be in a position to get a very high-quality player. If the season were to end today, the Lakers would have the No. 9 overall pick.
However, if they keep losing at their current pace and get a bit lucky with the lottery ping-pong balls, they could even wind up near the top five.
Regardless of where exactly the Lakers' pick is, they’ll have a number of possibilities and a range of supremely talented players to choose from.
Let’s say they do end up picking at No. 9, depending on the direction management decides to go, realistic options include do-it-all Croatian forward Dario Saric, or defensive stopper and shot-blocking beast Willie Cauley-Stein from Kentucky.
At the guard spots, they could go with heady, smooth shooting guard Gary Harris out of Michigan State, lanky scorer Rodney Hood from Duke, or even Zach LaVine, a freak athlete on the wing from UCLA.
Any of the above players would do great things for the Lakers and contribute immediately, but let’s just imagine that the Purple and Gold get lucky and end up with the No. 5 pick.
It is obvious the Lakers need a point guard, and at the No. 5 spot (if he’s still available), look no further than Australian product Dante Exum. The combo guard can play the 1 or 2, possesses simply unfair quickness and just oozes All-Star potential. If he got the chance to learn under Kobe Bryant for a year or two, the possibilities would be endless.
If not Exum, then the Lakers would be lucky to draft Marcus Smart, a physical scoring guard out of Oklahoma State, or take a risk on freak athlete and Blake Griffin clone Aaron Gordon, a power forward from Arizona.
Any of these prospects will certainly be great for the Lakers and will be key for their plans down the road. If this likely top-10 pick pans out, it will be the first piece of the puzzle for the Lakers’ future championship hopes.
2015 Summer Free Agency
The Lakers must not go after any superstar this summer if they want to set themselves up to win a championship in 2016-2017. If Jim Buss can manage to finally do one thing right, then he will just piece together a team next season largely on one-year contracts, saving the salary cap to go after superstars in the following two years.
So with the thought that the Lakers’ finances are handled correctly, when the summer of 2015 comes around, they’ll be in prime position to go after the best possible free agent. At the top of the list will most likely be Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge or Memphis’ Marc Gasol.
Any of these options would be game-changing for the Lakers, but recently it has been made public that Love is reportedly favoring the Lakers or Knicks in free agency, per Sam Smith of Bulls.com. Can you imagine seeing K-Love rock the Purple and Gold?
Well, I can and it looks pretty sweet.
Love is currently top four in the entire NBA in both points and rebounds, making it safe to say this would be a franchise-defining move for the Lake show and another step forward in the plan to win an NBA championship.
2016 Summer Free Agency
Hopefully having their 2014 top-10 draft pick pan out and acquiring Kevin Love or another star over the summer of 2015 will all build toward the Lakers’ biggest move when summer 2016 comes around.
Durant will be a free agent come 2016, and if James opts into the last two years of his deal with Miami, then he will be available as well.
If they don’t hit the gold mine with Durant or LeBron, Laker fans will be disappointed; however, not all would be lost. Depending on how his contract plays out, Kyrie Irving could be available as well. Pairing Irving and Love together would be dangerous.
To go along with Durant, James and Irving, many other NBA stars will be free agents come 2016. That list includes the likes of Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Nicolas Batum, Roy Hibbert, Damian Lillard, and many others that could escalate the Lakers back to the top if Durant or James doesn’t work out.
The 2016 free-agent market is primed to be one of the best ever, and the Lakers will plan on taking full advantage of it.
The Los Angeles Lakers may be struggling right now, but the groundwork is laid in front of them to get back to the NBA Finals, barring that Lakers management and myself are on the same page (of course with Jim Buss, this is unlikely).
First, don’t do anything stupid during this offseason. Stay smart, get through next season by slapping together a string of one-year contracts to go along with Kobe, and most likely signing back Nick Young to an extension.
Second, take care of this year’s 2014 NBA draft. With a hopeful top-10 pick, the Lakers need to nail down a solid contributor from this year’s deeply talented prospect pool, as it could have a huge payoff down the road.
Third, sign a superstar in the summer of 2015. Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge should be the top choices. With the top-10 pick from 2014 and another superstar, the team should be at least formidable during the 2015-2016 season.
Fourth, sign another major superstar in the summer of 2016 with the goal being to land either Kevin Durant or LeBron James.
So finally, if the stars were to align and everything goes right, just imagine what the Lakers could look like in the 2016-2017 season. They could be playing with a successful top-10 draft pick, Kevin Love and another superstar—let's just say, Kevin Durant.
Throw in some key role players like Sixth Man of the Year Swaggy P. and a veteran point guard they’ll pick up for cheap, such as Jameer Nelson or Raymond Felton, and this team suddenly looks like a serious contender.
Best of all, the now-retired Black Mamba looks at this roster and thinks a championship is a possibility and maybe pulls a Michael Jordan and comes out of retirement, obviously taking on a smaller role while chasing that sixth ring. I know that one is obviously far-fetched, but hey, it’d be awesome to watch.
Although Laker Nation may be down right now, in just a couple of years, it should be right back at the top, challenging to win yet another NBA championship.