Many remember the 2010-2011 season as the year Miami's sinister "big three" formed and got crushed by the Dallas Mavericks in what seemed like a fairy tale ending; but a lot of fans seem to have forgotten about the Lakers, the repeat champions from the previous two seasons.
It's undeniable that the Lakers have holes on the roster, but it's equally undeniable that so long as Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are suiting up for L.A. a deep playoff run is possible.
The Lakers are cash strapped and can't acquire any blockbuster free agents, and what makes things worse is that owners and players are looking to make the league "more competitive" for small-market teams. Still despite all of that L.A still has some wiggle room and are only a few pieces away from being the top team in the West again.
How L.A decides to approach free agency and the trade market has never been more important as there's no guarantee that Kobe, Gasol and Odom will be able to maintain their current production for long.
Here we'll take a look at some of the best realistic front office scenario's that could help Kobe and the Lakers win a title starting next season. Each scenario will be followed by a short summary and my take on the final outcome of the moves.
Enjoy, and please get in on the conversation by leaving a comment!
Lakers sign forward Andrei Kirilenko using the mid-level exception.
The Lakers have two main holes on the roster, and one of them would instantly be addressed by signing Andrei Kirilenko when the season begins.
Last season, Metta World Peace (formally known as Ron Artest) saw a drop off in production on both ends of the floor, and as a result the Lakers now lag behind other contenders which all have much better players at the small forward position (Deng for CHI, Durant for OKC, James for MIA, Marion for DAL, Anthony for NY and Pierce for Boson).
While the addition of Kirilenko won't exactly give L.A an All-Star, his game is a perfect fit for the Lakers. Kirilenko put up a solid 12 PPG while grabbing over five rebounds last season, and he also proved he could still be a great defender at 30 years of age.
In both 2009 and 2010 the Lakers had won the NBA title while having a defensive-minded small forward on the roster, and Kirilenko's stats last season were even better than what Ariza and World Peace put up during their title runs. Ariza averaged 8.9 points and four rebounds in 24.4 minutes, which was equal to 11.4 points and five rebounds when adjusted to Kirilenko's minutes; Metta World Peace averaged 11.6 points and four rebounds despite receiving more playing time.
Andrei Kirilenko could probably get a better deal than what the Lakers (a tax paying team) could offer him using their MLE, but Kirilenko made nearly $18 million last season and his next contract will only make him a fraction of that amount regardless of who he signs with. Kirilenko is a humble player who could decide that playing in L.A and winning a title is a great way to finish off his career.
I believe the Lakers will get a huge boost if they sign Andrei Kirilenko as he and World Peace will be a formidable duo at the three slot. The Lakers might be older than they were three seasons ago, but the emerging Andrew Bynum and the addition of Kirilenko could make them a serious threat once again.
The Lakers sign (waived) guard Baron Davis.
NBA teams are expected to be given an amnesty clause which will allow each team to waive a player on their roster without having to worry about their contract affecting the salary cap.
How teams will plan on using this rumored exception is a widely debated topic, but there are a handful of NBA players who are virtual locks for getting cut by their teams. Baron Davis is one of those players. Last season Baron Davis averaged a modest 13 points and seven assists despite only receiving 28 minutes of playing time, but he's no longer the superstar that he once was and the Cavaliers should look to erase the $30 million he's still owed to make room for future investment.
Some will argue that Baron Davis should opt to sign with a team like Miami or New York if he's released from the Cavs, but Baron Davis is from the L.A. area and is an aspiring filmmaker who would only benefit from playing in Hollywood again.
A freebie like Davis would give the Lakers a solid starting point guard and a great facilitator on offense. Baron Davis may have bumped heads with his superiors while playing for the Clippers, but we have to acknowledge that team failed to pursue real talent which forced Baron Davis to waste his last few good seasons on a rebuilding team. On the Lakers, Davis will find plenty of motivation to win a ring, and will be a part of a veteran locker room with a player-friendly coach.
Lakers sign forward Grant Hill.
Like the Kirilenko scenario, this move would give the Lakers a talented starting small forward which would be a perfect replacement for Metta World Peace.
Grant Hill averaged an amazing 13.2 points on 48 percent shooting from the field last season despite being 38 years old. Grant Hill signed with Phoenix four seasons ago hoping to win a ring, and he could choose to sign with L.A. this offseason as the Suns start looking to rebuild their roster.
Hill should be appealed at the prospect of having a starting role on the Lakers, and the Lakers would have little to no risk in signing Hill who will likely sign on the cheap and prove to be a very valuable role player.
Grant Hill at this age is still a top notch defender and he's very well conditioned. Hill and World Peace will both benefit by sharing minutes at the three, and the addition of Hill would be a definite step forward for L.A.
Lakers sign forward Shane Battier using the mid-level exception.
Shane Battier is another small forward with great work ethic and great defensive capabilities. As valuable as he is, Battier's contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet and that could be a definite plus if the Lakers want any shot of signing him using their measly MLE.
Last season Battier averaged 7.5 points, nearly five rebounds and a block and steal per game. Battier will likely be in the crosshairs of a number of teams whenever free agency begins, but the 33-year-old could choose to finish his career helping a contender instead of signing with a mediocre team.
The prospect of signing Shane Battier should be an exciting one for Lakers fans as we all saw him do an amazing job replacing an All-Star level forward in Rudy Gay last season. Memphis needed Shane Battier last season but the main reason why they brought him back was for his expiring contract. If the Grizzlies re-sign Marc Gasol I doubt they'll be able to keep Battier, and that would be a great opportunity for L.A. as no other contender can offer Battier a starting role like the Lakers can.
The Lakers trade forward Matt Barnes and their 2012 first-round pick for Rockets guard Goran Dragic
Matt Barnes is a good player and the Lakers committed a robbery when they signed him for under $2 million a year last season. Despite that, L.A. barely used Barnes who averaged only 19.2 minutes a game.
In that time, however, Barnes was still able to contribute seven points and over four rebounds. The Rockets could currently have three young guards on the roster and could choose to move Dragic because he's got an expiring contract and will likely require a pay raise at season's end.
The Rockets traded for Dragic last season but one could argue that they were only in it for Phoenix's first-rounder. The Rockets would be smart to add another first-rounder in exchange for Dragic, while also addressing team needs by adding a solid small forward in Barnes.
The Lakers would acquire Goran Dragic, a very quiet guard who has shown flashes of brilliance. Dragic averaged 7.5 points, three assists and 0.8 steals per game despite only receiving 17.6 minutes per game. Adjusting his stats to 36 minutes shows us that he would have averaged 15.3 points, six assists and over 1.4 steals per game.
The Lakers will provide a great Dragic plenty of talent to pass to, and he will excel at draining many open looks from downtown.
Good trade for both teams, and a definite plus for the Lakers who would be picking up a possible MIP candidate.
There are a number of other players that could be great additions to the Lakers but were excluded earlier because the scenario was either too unlikely, or the players aren't as talented. In a compressed form I'll mention a few others who would be great additions to L.A, and I'll give a short explanation of how it could happen here.
Could be signed if he's let go via amnesty clause. Jefferson might not be as talented as some of the other forwards mentioned, but he's still an upgrade over Metta World Peace.
The only bad valued player on the Nuggets could become a great value for the Lakers if he's waived via amnesty clause. Harrington averaged nearly 17 points per 36 minutes last season and could provide some depth for the Lakers.
If the Hawks use the amnesty clause on Williams, the Lakers could grab a solid starter by signing him. The reality is that Williams will probably find better money than the Lakers could offer by signing on another team.
A great pick for this list, the addition of Jamison will give the Lakers a borderline All-star and a solid starter at the small forward. The only issue is that the Cavs will probably choose to waive Davis if the amnesty clause is provided, and it might not be in their best interest to buy-out Jamison. Currently the Cavaliers lack veteran leadership and talent at the wing positions, and I believe there's no significant benefit to buying out Jamison versus waiting until Jamison's contract expires.
Not a star, but he could provide outside shooting help while being versatile enough to guard three positions. Would be a great pickup considering West will likely go for the veteran's minimum.