The Lakers were the favorites the entire season, and they showed why with a convincing performance in the NBA Finals, as they revenged their embarrassing loss to the rival Boston Celtics the year before.
Now, the Lakers are looking to repeat, as they still have a very young team that can improve.
However, their repeat chances depend on two unrestricted free agents: Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.
The Lakers' salary for next season is already set at $76 million due to the big raise in Andrew Bynum's contract without factoring in both Ariza and Odom's potential contracts.
Personally, I believe Dr. Jerry Buss will be willing to re-sign both Ariza and Odom as long as they don't ask for too much money. He knows Kobe only has four or five great years left, and that if Ariza and Odom are both re-signed, the Lakers have an excellent shot at winning two or three more titles before Kobe is done.
I also think the terrible economy will help the Lakers re-sign both of them, as there won't be too many other teams offering big contracts to Ariza and Odom.
Finally, I think that the Lakers could simply afford to pay both of them due to their immense popularity, the enormous prices of their tickets, and their recent success, including this championship.
Personally, I think the Lakers should offer Ariza a deal for five years worth around $30 million, which I think he will accept as it is long and the average pay is double what he made this season. Ariza will also stay because he is from the area, and he has fit extremely well with the team as a defensive and three-point specialist.
However, the more complicated free agent is Lamar Odom.
First off, Odom is 29 years old, which is six years older than Ariza, and he is one of the most inconsistent players in the league. Also, he never really liked the idea of coming off the bench, but played through it anyway for the good of the team. If Odom does re-sign, he will not start ahead of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Another major factor is that Odom is worth nearly double what Ariza is worth, as he made a little over $11 million this past season and is still in his prime.
I feel if the Lakers will make Odom an offer of around five years worth $45 million, and he will accept, as there won't be another team that will offer him more. He has also played in Los Angeles his entire NBA career, with the exception of the one season he played in Miami with the Heat.
However, if a deal isn't agreed upon with Odom and he signs with another team, the Lakers must sign a veteran big man who can come off the bench and make an impact.
Personally, I think the perfect player that fits that description is Antonio McDyess.
McDyess is a veteran who is hungry for a championship, as he has never won one. And if Odom departs, he would be able to be the backup power forward and center.
McDyess is still capable of posting consistent double-doubles if an injury occurs to either Bynum or Gasol, and he is more consistent than Odom. McDyess is also still a solid defender, and he will fit well because he can hit that 15-foot mid-range shot.
Overall, I am pretty much 100 percent sure that Ariza will be back, and about 70/30 on Odom's chances of resigning.
However, if Odom isn't re-signed and the Lakers signed McDyess as his replacement, I would still be extremely confident that the Lakers would be able repeat, because I expect Bynum, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic to all have better seasons than they did this year.
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