The Los Angeles Lakers don't like to lose, and judging by the latest free-agency buzz surrounding the team, they have plans to not finish below .500 again next season.
In fact, they have plans to make a major splash or two that would propel them back to contention.
General manager Mitch Kupchak has a difficult job this offseason. He needs to rebuild a team that only won 27 games last season, though that record can be a bit deceiving. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash nursed injuries all season long, so it's pretty reasonable to say that the team would have had a few more wins had they been healthy.
Regardless, Kupchak needs to explore every possible avenue to improve.
It already looks like he's doing just that.
Lakers "Serious" Contenders for Carmelo Anthony
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Grantland's Bill Simmons both provided their Twitter followers with some Carmelo Anthony information over the weekend:
Lakers have moved into serious contention on Carmelo Anthony, multiple sources tell Yahoo. "In the game now," one source close to Melo says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 5, 2014
Hearing the Lakers made a MAJOR impact on Melo this week - it's now a legit 3-way battle between LA/Chi/NYK to land him. Crazy NBA weekend.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 5, 2014
Thought to initially be a two-horse race between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks, the Melo sweepstakes is starting to heat up. There are other teams still in the race too, as reported by ESPN's Marc Stein:
As of 6 PM EST Sunday, ESPN sources say NONE of Melo's suitors (Rockets, Bulls, Mavs or Lakers) have been told they are out of contention— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 6, 2014
It's easy to see why the Lakers are an attractive option for Anthony. Los Angeles is a big market where superstar players have found success. The idea of playing with Bryant must also be attractive to Anthony, as he's never truly had the opportunity to play with another superstar in the NBA.
Are the Lakers really the best option for Anthony, though? Sure, they'll probably be able to pay him the type of contract he's deserving of, but if Melo wants to win, then he would be smart to take his talents to Chicago.
The Bulls have the defensive prowess and overall depth to be title contenders. If you throw Anthony into the mix, then they certainly have the offense to pair with Derrick Rose to make noise.
A core of Rose, Anthony and Joakim Noah would give the rest of the Eastern Conference serious problems.
Anthony Would Convince Pau Gasol to Stay
If Anthony ends up choosing the Lakers, then he might have more than just Bryant at his side.
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports that free agent Pau Gasol would stay in Los Angeles if Anthony inks a deal: "If Anthony eventually chooses the Lakers, they feel they have a good chance of bringing Gasol back. 'If the Lakers get Carmelo, Pau will stay,' said a person familiar with Gasol's thinking."
Gasol would be a stellar addition alongside Bryant and Anthony, as aside from rookie power forward Julius Randle, the Purple and Gold wouldn't have much in terms of consistent big men. Despite missing some time last season, Gasol was as effective as ever.
He shot 48 percent from the floor in 60 games en route to a scoring average of 17.4 points per night. He also added in 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for good measure.
As one of the game's best passing big men, Gasol would be a crucial addition to this team. While Bryant and Anthony dominate teams on the perimeter, Gasol will draw double-teams down low because of his size and versatility.
This will create open shots on the outside, and the Black Mamba and Melo won't miss many of those.
If the Lakers can swing adding Anthony and Gasol, then they have to do it.
LeBron James Also an Option?
Anthony and Gasol aren't the only free agents that the Lakers are courting. Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports reports that members of the team's front office met with LeBron James' agent: "According to reports, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and senior Vice President of Business Operations Tim Harris were in Cleveland Friday to meet with Rich Paul, the agent of LeBron James."
Where will LeBron sign?
Adding James would obviously be the biggest move of the summer. That said, adding LeBron would likely inhibit the chances of signing Anthony or Gasol. James wants a max contract, and if he gets it from the Lakers, then they won't have the payroll flexibility to add another star. Even if the Lakers couple the James signing with waiving Steve Nash, there still won't be enough money.
That is, of course, unless Anthony is willing to take much less money than he would get from other suitors.
Or, if James is willing to negotiate, both Anthony and James could take less money to join the Black Mamba. After winning just 27 games last season, this team would be a candidate to win 55-plus if it can make the right depth signings.
While the Lakers haven't met with James directly yet, they're a team that could sneak into the discussion for the world's best player.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR