The Los Angeles Lakers have been involved with seemingly every notable player since free agency opened on July 1, and with the official signing period set to begin on July 10, every rumor could potentially lead to something massive.
After winning just 27 games last season, the Lakers and general manager Mitch Kupchak are ready for some changes. With money to spend and roster holes to fill, expect this offseason to be a busy one for the Purple and Gold.
Kobe Bryant needs talent around him to succeed. The Black Mamba should get some talent to play with over the course of the next few weeks.
If the Lakers want to pair Bryant with talent, then Carmelo Anthony certainly fits the criteria.
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Grantland's Bill Simmons both have sources telling them that the Lakers are a legitimate contender to acquire Melo's services:
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
The Black Mamba would definitely benefit from playing alongside Anthony. It has been far too long since Bryant has played with a legitimate star next to him. Look what happened in the past when he had a capable running mate.
The Lakers won championships.
Signing Melo wouldn't be the only move for the Lakers this offseason, however. This team still would have depth issues that need to be addressed.
If Julius Randle plays well during his rookie year and Anthony is inked, this team has potential. Throw in some role players that can light it up off the bench, and you've got a contender in the Western Conference.
Another player that the Lakers are targeting is point guard Isaiah Thomas, according to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling:
Hearing Lakers are "real possibility" for Isaiah Thomas. Heat still pursuing, but LA has the $. Nothing happens 'til Melo & Bron make moves.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) July 6, 2014
Thomas represents one of the better players in the second tier of free agents. He ranks alongside the likes of Gordon Hayward and others in that group. The 25-year-old continued his rise up the ranks of NBA point guards last season, averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game.
The Sacramento Kings might choose to let him walk in order to free up money, but the restricted free agent can still be re-signed by the Kings if the money looks right. The Kings have the right to match any offer thrown Thomas' way.
If the Lakers sign Anthony and pry Thomas away from other bidders, they will suddenly be quite explosive offensively. With three guys capable of dropping 20 points on any given night, the Lakers will put up some gaudy numbers.
Of course, this all hinges on where Anthony and LeBron James sign, per Zwerling's tweet. They're the ones dictating the market right now.
One of the most interesting free agents available is Lance Stephenson. The guard was great for the Indiana Pacers last season, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He also led the NBA with five triple-doubles.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that Stephenson might seek a new home after not appreciating the Pacers' offer:
Although his desire is to remain with the Pacers, a disappointed Stephenson began exploring the free-agent market after receiving what he felt was a low-ball offer on Tuesday, sources said.
Stephenson has drawn interest from the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, although both teams have other free agents prioritized above Stephenson, according to sources.
Zany antics aside, Stephenson is a quality player. He can do a little bit of everything (defense included). That's the type of player contending teams need, and the Pacers will certainly miss him if he's not in Indiana next year.
Stephenson is an interesting fit for the Lakers, as Bryant's natural position is shooting guard. One of the two could move to small forward to make it work, or the Lakers could essentially eliminate that position and run with three guards.
That strategy isn't unheard of, so it could work.
Stephenson is definitely a player to watch this offseason. If the Pacers really won't shell out the money he's looking for, then he could be a big-time acquisition for a team looking to add consistency.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR