L.A. has some money to spend, and its roster is also a blank slate of sorts, with only veteran Kobe Bryant, young forward Julius Randle and Russell looking like sure things to receive significant playing time. A lot of work needs to be done in order for the Lakers to become competitive in the Western Conference again, but they have an opportunity to improve rapidly.
With the offseason now in full swing, here is a rundown of the latest trade and free-agent rumors surrounding the Lakers.
Future Hall of Fame shooting guard Dwyane Wade has spent his entire career as a member of the Miami Heat, but after the veteran's decision to opt out of his contract, there is a chance that he could don different colors for the first time next season.
While a return to Miami seems to be the likeliest result due to D-Wade's long and storied history with the franchise, it is far from a guarantee. Teams will undoubtedly attempt to sway the 33-year-old star in their direction, and the Lakers are among them, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated claimed that Wade has reciprocated L.A.'s interest.
Wade would be an interesting fit in Los Angeles considering what the Lakers already have on their roster. With Bryant, Russell and returning guard Jordan Clarkson likely to eat up most of the backcourt minutes, it is unclear what type of role Wade would play.
ESPN SportsNation's Max Kellerman doesn't see the logic in Wade's signing with L.A.:
Wade and Kobe would make for an intriguing combo to say the least, and their collective winning experience could be hugely positive for young players such as Russell, Randle, Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
With D-Wade reaching the latter stages of his career, though, common sense suggests that he would rather chase more championship rings than be a mentor.
Ben Axelrod of 95.5 The Game believes the Chicago native has ulterior motives with regard to his reported interest in the Lakers:
While it's certainly possible that Wade is just trying to drive up the price by exploring opportunities with the Lakers and other teams, he may ultimately find that a change of scenery is needed.
Signing Wade away from Miami would be about the splashiest move Los Angeles could make, but it probably wouldn't be the smartest considering his age and accumulation of injuries in recent years.
The Lakers were the NBA's second-worst defensive team last season, as they allowed over 105 points per game, but they could potentially turn that around if they are able to poach guard Iman Shumpert from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, the Lakers are among several teams who have expressed interest in signing the restricted free agent.
Although the likes of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love stole most of the headlines in Cleveland, Shumpert was a key contributor to the Cavs' run to the NBA Finals. After averaging 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game for the Cavs during the regular season, he improved to the tune of 9.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest during the playoffs.
The former New York Knicks first-round draft pick is also regarded as one of the NBA's top perimeter defenders, an area in which the Lakers are in desperate need.
Bryant has long been a strong defender in his own right, but at 36 years of age he shouldn't be expected to cover the opposition's best player.
Shumpert is capable of doing precisely that and can play on the wing, which would allow Kobe and Russell to be on the floor with him.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, signing Shumpert will be a challenge. The Cavs can match any offer sheet he signs, so unless L.A. is willing to overpay, it may not be able to land him.
Add in the fact that the Lakers desperately need to come away with a quality big via free agency or trade, and it is clear that emptying the vault for Shumpert may not be the smartest move.
Clearing Cap Space
The Lakers enter free agency with more than $28 million to spend under the salary cap, according to Spotrac, but they may be looking to create more in order to make a truly massive impact in free agency.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers are exploring a number of possible trades with the intention of having more money to spend in free agency:
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne claimed that power forward Ryan Kelly and small forward Nick Young are among the players whom the Lakers have at least discussed moving:
It doesn't appear as though anything is imminent, but L.A. would certainly be wise to get rid of some spare parts if possible, since the current free-agent class is good enough to help the organization orchestrate a quick turnaround.
Provided the Lakers are able to make some major acquisitions, players like Young and Kelly would be relegated to reserve roles anyway. They're also part of a core that struggled mightily to win games last season.
Los Angeles would be wise to essentially strip down the roster, aside from Bryant and its promising youngsters. If it can do that, then it will have room to sign or trade for a couple of potential stars.
Doing that doesn't guarantee that the Lakers will make the playoffs next season, since they have a lot of ground to make up in the Western Conference, but it would undoubtedly go a long way toward moving them in the right direction.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.