Kobe Bryant’s 15 seasons have been nothing short of memorable. A 13-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion, he will go down as one of the Lakers’ greats alongside Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Wilt Chamberlain.
Despite the fact that we’ll probably see Kobe play another five seasons, his superstardom and ability to single-handedly carry the Lakers is slowly diminishing as indicated by this year’s second-round sweep to the Dallas Mavericks. The time is now to make a move for the next face of the franchise or at the very least, someone to share the spotlight as Kobe’s career winds down.
Los Angeles is the place where careers are made and it could be the next home for one of these five stars.
Sixteen summers ago, Shaquille O’Neal made the leap from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers and went on to win three NBA championships in Tinseltown. Magic center Dwight Howard, the top most coveted big man in the NBA today, could be the next big man to lead the Lakers to glory.
By this point, everyone has heard the rumors linking Howard and the Lakers, but by no means does that mean a deal is imminent this offseason.
From the Lakers camp we’ve heard that Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum have been offered as a package, however we’ve also heard that Howard is essentially untradeable from Orlando GM Otis Smith.
Regardless, Howard’s contract expires at the end of the 2011-12 season and he’s made it clear that he intends to test the free agency waters (i.e. sign with Los Angeles), making a deal all the more likely in the next eight to 10 months.
Odds: 75 percent
Last week, The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence reported that some people within the Lakers organization want to get a star playmaker to help lead Mike Brown's offense, post-Phil Jackson era. Lawrence speculated that Chris Paul or Deron Williams could be the Lakers' No. 1 targets, instead of Dwight Howard.
In Paul, the Lakers would get the most complete point guard in the NBA, a perfect running mate for Bryant and a superstar to build the team around.
With Paul set to make $16.4M this season and just a player option for 2011-12, it is not out of the question to think that the New Orleans Hornets could move him before the trade deadline this season to ensure return. We could see him on the market even sooner, as David West has indicated he will likely be leaving this summer.
Odds: 40 percent
As mentioned, Deron Williams has possibly been a blip on the Lakers' radar as of late.
Like Paul, Williams will make $16.4M this season and has a player option for the 2012-13 season. The difference between the two point guards however is that the Nets have clearly invested in Williams to be the future focal point of the franchise, dealing Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two future first rounders (one of which was Enes Kanter) last season to acquire him.
New Jersey would not have sold the farm for just one season and will offer what is necessary to keep him around long-term.
With that said, if the Lakers want an elite point guard, Williams will certainly be the toughest to pry away.
Odds: 10 percent
As recent as last Thursday, the Lakers have also been linked to Sixers slasher Andre Iguodala, according to Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski. Iguodala has been one of the most discussed players on the trade market this summer and it would not be surprising to see him moved prior to the start of the season. A proposed deal involving Lamar Odom has been discussed.
Over the past couple seasons, Iggy has become one of the top 2/3 hybrids and would help Los Angeles on both sides of the ball, especially defensively. Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins has indicated that he would like to keep his second best returning scorer around this year, but if a good deal comes by that alleviates his three-year, $44 million contractual burden, Philadelphia will certainly consider.
Odds: 40 percent
Next to Iguodala, the most commonly mentioned star on the market this summer has been Warriors guard Monta Ellis. Last week, rumors broke out that Golden State was beginning to seriously listen to offers for their leading scorer. Ken Berger of CBSSports reported that Los Angeles threw its hat into the ring on draft night with an offer of Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown for Ellis but clearly nothing came of it.
While Monta Ellis scores at an elite level, adding him to the Lakers squad would almost certainly create a battle for touches in the backcourt. Ellis is a natural shooting guard and has not shown the skills that might indicate a flawless transition to point, making him less appealing in light of the Lakers current situation.
Odds: 10 percent