Sunday, December 14, 2014

Can The Lakers Have Kobe Retire On A Losing Team?

Kobe Bryant’s comments recently about the Lakers speak volumes about what everyone feels. They are awful and perhaps “Charmin Soft.” Below is a video that has circled the Internet and how dysfunctional the team is this year. However, is it possible management will allow one of the franchise’s greatest players to go out on a losing note? Many critics have their opinions, but there are a few options on the table.
The Lakers only have about $35 million of guaranteed contracts next season. We all know about Kobe’s massive contract, but other than that, the team has Nick Young and Julius Randle as most likely contributors. Magic Johnson has said that he wishes the Lakers would “lose every game.” Not to take it out of context, but the team literally CANNOT finish with a decent record. Steve Nash was supposed to be the point guard that brought Kobe his sixth championship ring, but his body failed. The trade that brought Nash to the Lakers from the Suns included 4 draft picks – first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014. This year’s first round pick has a catch that can benefit the Lakers. If they receive a top 5 pick in the lottery, the draft pick stays with the Lakers. Anything later goes to the Suns. This upcoming draft features plenty of big men that can play both ways on offense and defense including Jahil Okafor and Karl Anthony-Towns. The Lakers rank near the bottom of the league averaging only 15.6 field goal makes five feet and in. Looking back at all of Kobe’s championship teams, he has had a great big man (Shaq and Gasol). If the team can manage to acquire one of those players, Kobe will have a big man he can rely on.
Perhaps the Lakers receive a pick between the third and fifth pick and don’t really covet a player in that range. There is a team that is literally making their team lose that could facilitate a trade – the Philadelphia 76ers. They have a point guard in Michael Carter-Williams and two big men in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. It’s tough to say if they will stick with Tony Wroten due to his turnovers. However, I don’t think that Noel and Embiid will be teaming up together in the starting lineups and both are too talented to be coming off the bench. The Lakers should try to facilitate a trade to acquire Joel Embiid to join the potential starting lineup of Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle. With their power forward and center positions taken care of, there’s another step in the development for this team.
Free agency is always a time of hope for all big market teams coming off disappointing seasons. If the draft does not work out for the Lakers, players like Rajon Rondo, Greg Monroe, and Al Jefferson will be available. The question will be how long of a contract will the player accept? Keep in mind – the new TV deal will be taking place in 2016 thus potentially eliminating max contracts. Some players could gamble on themselves and play on a one year deal to potentially get a huge contract the next offseason. Kobe and Rondo have a well-documented friendship that includes the two having breakfast when their prospective teams were facing each other in Boston. Kobe has even said “You don’t want Rondo? Send him my way. I love the way he plays.”
If Rondo doesn’t work out, another option would be to sign Reggie Jackson. However, there is a good chance that signing him wouldn’t be an option. The Thunder probably won’t be able to pay him the money he wants, and will try to get as much value as they can via trade. Like the James Harden trade, his next team will want Jackson to sign a long term deal. The Lakers are unwilling to trade any assets that can come off their books.
I do believe the Lakers will make a run for Rondo or Jackson (if he’s available) in the offseason to help Kobe get his sixth ring, but the problem will be to get bench production. They would have to make a decision whether to bring Nick Young off the bench or start him and try to spread the ball around. You can see the situation in Cleveland where Dion Waiters believed he should be a starter and tried to put up the numbers to back it up. The result was a lot of missed shots and a bench role and even fell behind in the rotation for a short while to Joe Harris. If the Lakers were to get a premier point guard and acquire a big man via free agency or the draft, veteran players would be willing to take a pay cut to try to win a ring.
Mike Dunleavy would be a good acquisition if the Bull don’t re-sign him. Tony Snell’s third year option was picked up and Doug McDermott will most likely see more action in the coming seasons. Dunleavy could provide a boost for the Lakers bench. Other options for the bench could be Nate Robinson, Marcus Thornton, Jason Terry, or John Salmons.
There is no possible way Lakers management will allow Kobe to retire with a losing team. Or is there?

Danny Stokes - Senior NBA Writer/Analyst for Legion Report @LegionReportNBA -

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