Purple and Gold Dilemma: How Will The LA Lakers Replace Kobe Bryant?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IOctober 5, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04:  Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in action during the NBA Europe Live match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the O2 arena on October 4, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

One of the reasons the Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA's most consistent franchise is the ability to renew their talent base by attracting top tier players to Hollywood.

The Lakers have only missed the playoffs twice in the history of the franchise, and that sterling record is due to a succession of Hall of Fame players such as Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But how do the Lakers replace what may be arguably the top player in the history of the franchise?

Kobe Bryant will likely retire in the next few seasons, and when he does Bryant will be the most decorated and accomplished player to ever wear a Lakers uniform.

General manager Mitch Kupchak will be facing a dilemma which is entirely different from 2004 when he basically re-built the entire team from scratch with Bryant as the focal point.

That team wasn't expected to compete with players such as Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on the roster, but the Lakers of the near future will be a strong team seeking to replace Bryant's leadership and charisma.

And scoring.

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If Andrew Bynum can continue his development and avoid injury the Lakers should be set in the post, and newcomers Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks look like good bets to play pivotal roles in the future.

But the only guards who will conceivably be around in the next four seasons will be Shannon Brown and an aged Steve Blake, and neither player is a viable replacement for Bryant.

If Los Angeles does want to make a move now the team's best shot may be at the NBA trade deadline when players such as Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony may be available.

Anthony has made it clear that he is unhappy in Denver, and even though recent attempts to trade the disgruntled star have failed, that doesn't mean the bidding for his services are over.

Unless Anthony signs a contract extension the Nuggets will continue to shop him around the league, or risk losing him for absolutely nothing once the 2010-11 season ends.

Paul's case is a little different in that he doesn't provide the type of scoring Anthony and Bryant are capable of, but he can still dominate a game with his floor presence alone.

The New Orleans Hornets have also made it clear that they would prefer for Paul to remain a piece of their organization, but Paul has made it clear that it all depends on the team's dedication to winning.

There may be a chance for the Lakers to swoop in and get either player by the trade deadline, or they could set their sights on another player who could be available in three years.

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant will have his own decision to make in the next three seasons, and even though Thunder fans will see differently, he could be very attractive to the Lakers.

Whether or not Durant would choose to leave the Thunder and the chance for his own legacy there, or be willing to join the long succession of Laker's greats is another matter.

The opportunity to join the Lakers would certainly be enticing to Durant, but he has every chance to build his own powerhouse team in Oklahoma.

A less likely scenario would be securing a successor to Bryant through the NBA draft, but it's doubtful the Lakers can get lucky three times in a row.

Former Lakers' general manager Jerry West saw something special in Bryant, and it may have been the best hunch in the history of the franchise, since the Lakers received Bryant for the rights to Vlade Divac.

Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft, but few people could have forseen the type of career Bryant has had.

The Lakers may have the same luck with Bynum who was drafted 10th in 2005 as a 17 year old project, with the potential to be a dominant true NBA center.

One of the hardest thing to do is correctly predicting future talent, and to be fair, it's unlikely the Lakers will really ever be able to replace Bryant anyway.

The Lakers will never find a player who equals what Bryant has meant to the franchise, but the thought process of choosing someone to succeed him should be well under way.

Los Angeles has shown the ability to adapt through each decade, and for each star who has left through retirement or free agency, another one has materialized to ease the process of transition.

I have no doubt that the Lakers will make a strong push for a younger star in the near future, but less certain is, who that player may be, and what avenue he will take to arrive.

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