The Los Angeles Lakers might have a whole heap of work to do in the offseason but the struggling franchise resisted the urge to make any rash signings before the trade deadline. Rock bottom of the Western Conference at the time of writing with a dismal 11-44 record, the to-do list facing the Lakers at the end of the regular season is getting longer by the day. But rather than start the revamp job right away, general manager Mitch Kupchak didn’t delve into the market before the end of this recent trade window, with it now clear the franchise will be waiting until the summer before starting what will be a huge turnaround in personnel.
Much of the decision-making came down to the fact that the franchise will have a much clearer picture as to where they need to strengthen at the end of the season. With a huge space in salary cap set to be opened up when Kobe Bryant retires at the end of this regular season, the Lakers are also facing the very real possibility of having a top-three draft pick. As well as the obvious story of the Golden State Warriors seemingly set to retain their NBA championship, with the franchise at 5/4 in the odds with bet365 when this article was produced to go all the way again this year, one of the real storylines this season has been the continued struggles of the Lakers.
Heading towards their third playoff-free campaign, the Californians know they need to undergo something of a rebuild in the summer. While this all points towards a very exciting summer of player recruitment for the team, the fact is that they really are starting from relatively nothing. Aside from a core of talented youngsters, there is little on this roster that the Lakers won’t be willing to part with if it means improving a team on course to record their worst finish in a season for more than 50 years.
Hanging onto the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown will be right up there on Kupchak’s to-do list come the summer, but the same can’t be said of Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, Metta World Peace and Marcelo Huertas, all of whom are coming to the end of their contracts this year. While it remains to be seen what happens to Lou Williams, Nick Young and Brandon Bass, it’s clear that there is going to be a lot of work done to ensure that the Lakers don’t make it four seasons without reaching the playoffs.
The Lakers have been desperate to ensure they reach the summer without their impending cap space compromised and with their young core still intact, and so far that has been a success. After such a disappointing few years, the franchise’s talented youngsters have been the only real positive to come out of this season. With so much salary cap space set to be cleared up this summer when Kobe leaves the wage bill, there is a genuine hope that this is the offseason in which the Lakers finally rebuild the crumbling empire and start building a new legacy.
Bryant is the last star from the team that dominated the NBA for so long, winning five NBA championships in 11 seasons. His departure is as clear a sign as ever that it’s the future rather than the past that the Lakers need to place their focus. With plenty of scope in terms of wage cap, a group of exciting youngsters and potentially a top-three draft pick to come, this summer could be the one that sees the franchise put the blocks in place upon which this team can start building a successful future.