There was a time when the Los Angeles Lakers would still be playing in late May and early June. Ask your older brother about it.
Instead, the Lakers are solely focused on the 2015-16 campaign and how they will improve their team in an important offseason. Yes, Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle will be healthy next year, but that alone will not be enough to compete in the loaded Western Conference.
Naturally, there have been subsequent rumors and speculation surrounding potential free agents and draft decisions for the Lakers. Here is a look at a few of them.
It is almost easy to forget about Kevin Love while the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for the NBA Finals. After all, the stretch forward was lost for the season in the first round of the playoffs, and the Cavaliers proceeded to steamroll their way to the conference crown anyway.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Grantland’s Zach Lowe (via RealGM) noted on a recent podcast that Los Angeles could be a factor this offseason with Love:
"Every executive I talk to, every agent I talk to, every quasi insider, every girlfriend's cousin's sister's boyfriend all says this guy is out of there," said Brian Windhorst during a podcast with Zach Lowe.
"I hear the same thing from everybody," said Lowe. "From everyone that is two or three or four steps removed. I don't quite believe all of that."
"I agree," replied Windhorst.
"Part of what's going on there is the Lakers' boogeyman," said Lowe. "They don't just say he's out of there, they say 'He's going to the Lakers.' That has much to do with the fear people have of the Lakers as it does with Kevin Love."
This is not the last time you will read about Love potentially joining the Lakers. He went to college at UCLA and could theoretically “return home” to be Los Angeles’ next superstar after Bryant inevitably retires within the next couple of years. What’s more, the possibility of pairing Love with the No. 2 pick and Jordan Clarkson for years to come is enticing for Lakers fans.
Love didn’t necessarily dominate the league in Cleveland like he did in Minnesota, but he is still a formidable rebounder and matchup nightmare who can drill three-pointers and score from the block.
Pairing Love with someone like Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns would make the Lakers that much more dangerous. Towns is a shutdown defender who will provide rim protection down low next to Love, who appears more comfortable defending outside the paint.
As for Okafor, he is a potentially dominant scorer on the blocks, and Love would space the floor and take advantage of potential double-teams that came his way on the offensive end.
Either way, Love and a rookie big man would look good in purple and gold alongside Bryant if you ask Lakers fans.
No. 2 Pick
While many (myself included) assume the Lakers will take whichever one is still available at No. 2 in the draft between Towns and Okafor, D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay are also superstars in the making. The Lakers would be wise to do their homework on both prospects, and that appears to be exactly what they will do, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
The Love section touched somewhat on the value Towns or Okafor would bring to Los Angeles.
Both are incredibly talented and bring different skill sets to the table that will help them contend for Rookie of the Year distinctions. They also make sense on paper for a squad that has a young point guard in Clarkson—who was part of the NBA All-Rookie First Team last season—and Bryant dominating the ball in the backcourt.
The Lakers need more consistent depth down low outside of a young and unproven Julius Randle.
Still, the skill sets of Russell and Mudiay clearly intrigue the front office. It would be irresponsible if the Lakers didn’t keep all their options open leading up to the draft, and that could be what they are doing here.
If there is a team that desperately wants Russell or Mudiay and could potentially trade up, it is in Los Angeles’ best interest to give off the impression that it wants those players. It will get a better return in any potential swap and force another team to overpay.
Still, don’t be surprised when the Lakers take Okafor or Towns come draft day.
Assuming Los Angeles picks a center to go along with power forward Randle, shooting guard Bryant and point guard Clarkson, it will need some more depth on the wing.
One potential answer is small forward DeMarre Carroll, as Sean Deveney of Sporting News pointed out: “There's a long list of teams already prepared to pursue Carroll this year, including the Celtics, Lakers and Pistons. ... The Lakers, a source said, have big-time interest in Carroll.”
Carroll turned in career highs in points per game (12.6) and three-point percentage (39.5) this season and was a formidable defender on the outside. He could take the pressure off the perimeter defense of Bryant and can hit three-pointers when double-teams come Bryant’s and Okafor/Towns’ way on the other end.
One player who noticed Carroll’s ability on the defensive end this season was LeBron James, who compared the Atlanta swingman to the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler (who is widely considered one of the league’s best perimeter defenders), per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
They're similar in their own ways. The best thing about it is they have some very active bigs behind them. It gives them the ability to push up on me and trust that those bigs behind them are going to protect them.
I relish the challenge, I love the challenge in both of them.
Los Angeles could certainly use someone like that on the defensive end next season and beyond.