Regardless of their current state, the Los Angeles Lakers will always receive top billing on the NBA newsfeed. As the Lakers seek to rebound from their first season without a playoff berth since 2004-05, the rumor mill has swirled relentlessly around the team's possible renovations.
At the moment, the Lakers are an essentially barren organization. Assuming they use the stretch provision on Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Robert Sacre will be the only two players under contract for next season. With Bryant aging and little young talent surrounding him, Los Angeles is in the unfamiliar position of facing an uncertain future.
Given the Lakers' track record, that could change rapidly—possibly as soon as this offseason. For the latest rumors surrounding one of the NBA's most storied franchises, check out all the buzz and analysis below.
Kevin Love Update
The Lakers are in search of a new foundation for their franchise to eventually succeed Bryant. Their interest in Kevin Love has been clear for months, and Bill Ingram of BasketballInsiders.com suggested that the Lakers could get the first crack at wooing Love if the Timberwolves make him openly available:
It’s a poorly kept secret that the Lakers would love to make Love their next franchise cornerstone. If his contract with the Timberwolves simply expires and he goes shopping, expect his home town Lakers to be his very first stop. Of course, the Lakers are not poised to win at this juncture, and they have work to do if they expect to field a team even as good as Minnesota’s two seasons from now.
Love is just one of the free agents the Lakers would pursue, as Los Angeles has never been content to rebuild slowly. It appears the disgruntled Minnesota All-Star is their best bet to land a big name in 2014, as Grantland's NBA writer Zach Lowe believes the Love camp is serious about leaving this offseason:
For now, Los Angeles needs at least one star in his prime to truly remain an attractive destination. The weather and championship banners will always serve as alluring calling cards, but the Lakers do need someone to sign without total assurance that they will receive veteran help.
Knowing the Lakers' history, the dominoes should be quick to fall if they can ink one marquee name. Love's plethora of suitors makes Los Angeles more of a dark horse than their reputation would suggest. However, with $28.2 million cap space, per the Los Angles Times' Eric Pincus, the Lakers will remain a legitimate threat to sign any veteran star that hits the market.
Head Coaching Search
Along with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers are the only other team in the NBA without a head coach at the moment. But while their search's end does not appear imminent, Bleacher Report's Howard Beck reports that Los Angeles has narrowed the list of candidates down to three:
Another Jackson loyalist, Kurt Rambis, could join the Knicks as Fisher's lead assistant. However, Rambis also remains a favorite for the Lakers' head-coaching position, according to league sources. The Lakers have interviewed at least a half-dozen coaches, but sources say they are focused on three primary candidates: Rambis, Alvin Gentry and Byron Scott.
Beck's rumor comes on the heels of a report from Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, who stated that the Lakers were looking for a candidate with previous head coaching experience. Rambis was fired after two nondescript seasons in Minnesota, in which he went 32-132.
Though Rambis does have extensive history with the Lakers organization, it's his former teammate, Scott, who could be the front-runner, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard:
Scott last coached during the 2012-13 season for the Cavs. Having been fired from three separate jobs, the shine has largely worn off Scott since he led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances.
The Lakers appear poised to conduct their draft without a coach, which is not necessarily a huge problem given their intentions to rebuild through immediate veteran help rather than the draft. Nonetheless, for an organization that has struggled to find direction since Phil Jackson's retirement, hiring the right voice is absolutely imperative.
After a 25-win season, the Lakers were surely disappointed to miss out on a chance at Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Dante Exum. According to ESPN's Chad Ford, Los Angeles' top preference is to trade away the seventh pick (subscription required):
The Lakers keep shopping this pick but are struggling to find an All-Star caliber big in return. If the Cavs can't get that type of player with the No. 1 overall pick, the Lakers are probably not getting it at pick No. 7. If the Lakers keep it, they'll want a player who can come in and contribute from day one, and three players -- Randle, Smart and Doug McDermott -- seem to be the targets.
Ford mocked Kentucky forward Julius Randle to the Lakers. Given Pau Gasol's likely departure, Randle represents someone who could replace Gasol's offensive post presence. Though he will likely have defensive limitations throughout his career, Randle's high-floor projection would dovetail with the Lakers' desire to avoid another losing season.
However, at least one NBA analyst believes that Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart is a better fit:
Smart's extremely competitive nature would likely play well with Bryant, who could teach the 20-year-old to harness his fiery demeanor. Smart's jump shot needs further development, but his size makes him a terror as both a penetrator and rebounder. He has top-five upside and could be a swing-for-the-fences options at pick No. 7.
The Lakers will not willingly opt to patiently rebuild through the draft, but there are still potential All-Stars in this year's deep crop. At the very least, Los Angeles should land a valuable trade chip to goose future talks for veteran stars.