5 Critical Questions Surrounding Los Angeles Lakers' 2014 Free Agency
At this point, we mostly know who will be available. Anyone with a player option could throw the market for a loop but regardless of who opts in or out, general manager Mitch Kupchak must ask himself a few key questions.
First and foremost, L.A. must decide if its eyes are set on 2014 or 2015. Not-so coincidentally, the team also needs to reevaluate the coaching situation, as Mike D'Antoni's presence (or absence) could be a difference-maker in free-agent scenarios.
These aren't the only questions worth asking, but they're the ones that will get the conversation started. The Lakers have a lot of work to do and with the offseason around the corner, the organization must look at itself before it can look at free agents.
*Salary information is courtesy of HoopsHype.com.
Will There Be a Coaching Change?
It's no secret that Mike D'Antoni's future is in flux. The Los Angeles Lakers rubbed fans the wrong way when they passed on Phil Jackson, and more importantly, D'Antoni simply hasn't won throughout his time in L.A.
The truth is that the coach hasn't received a fair shot because of injuries; however, the entire organization is rebuilding, and D'Antoni's job is far from safe.
According to B/R's Kevin Ding, as seen in the video above, D'Antoni's job status will impact decisions surrounding free agency. Specifically, D'Antoni's tenure could influence Pau Gasol's return, as well as the fantasy of signing Carmelo Anthony.
Before the Lakers can focus on acquiring talent, they must know who will be roaming the sidelines. It's been proven that certain players succeed in D'Antoni's system but unfortunately for the coach, a significant part of the current roster doesn't fit the bill.
Who Will Return?
Let's be perfectly blunt: We have no idea what the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers are going to look like.
Before we can think about whom L.A. will bring in, we must think about whom it will bring back. Once the regular season ends, only three players will be under contract (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre) with the exception of Kendall Marshall and Nick Young, who have team and player options.
The bigger question here is: Who can help this team win right away while building toward the future? That's what Mitch Kupchak needs to decide before he looks to spend his money elsewhere.
There are a number of replacements on the free-agent market but while some of them can be had for cheap, others will require a hefty investment. Knowing what you have is the first step toward knowing what you need, and that's the process L.A. will face at the start of the summer.
Best Fits with Kobe Bryant?
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA. In some eyes, he's the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time, and he's without a doubt a future Hall of Famer.
You can't take anything away from what Bryant has accomplished at this point in his career, but you also can't ignore that he can be difficult to play with.
Bryant demands a lot out of his teammates, and that's not going to change in the twilight of his career. With two more years to go, finding someone who can jell with the Mamba is ideal, while also targeting the future.
Whomever L.A. brings in this summer will be expected to usher in a new era of Lakers basketball. Not all players will be at the forefront of the rebuild but as Los Angeles has learned, role players and a deep bench are essentials.
Bryant may be down and out right now, but he'll be back. This is still his team and finding the right pieces to put around him are as important as ever.
2014 or 2015?
Virtually every question leading up to this one has been asked with this query in mind: Will the Los Angeles Lakers make the 2014 or 2015 class their main target?
According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, that decision may have already been made. Bresnahan has reported that the Lakers will bring back Steve Nash in 2014, creating substantial cap space for 2015 and 2016.
All this sounds good on paper, but you have to think about the variables. What if a marquee free agent becomes available this summer and wants to play in L.A.? Specifically, what if Mike D'Antoni is fired and the team lures Carmelo Anthony?
Nothing is guaranteed at this point in the process but free agency is best utilized when you have a clear-cut vision. Mitch Kupchak is smart enough to create a blueprint before diving into the offseason and targeting one class over the other is the first step toward a successful rebuild.
Will There Be an Offseason Trade?
At this point, you've heard Kevin Love to Los Angeles rumors. Often times, rumors turn out to be speculation, but if you're looking for a story linking the two sides, look no further than ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Stein suggested in March that Los Angeles would be willing to deal its lottery pick in the upcoming draft if it meant receiving Love in return. According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, Love has since stated, "My parents lived there and had me there. It’s not my fault. I don’t care about that right now."
Love has said the right things, but as you'd imagine, that won't stop people from surmising.
On the surface, this doesn't sound like it's about free agency, but you have to understand how this scenario would shift the Lakers' goals come July. This would boost the rebuild into hyper speed, allowing L.A. to focus solely on role players and depth as opposed to star power.
Nothing will come easy for the Lakers moving forward but a deal like this would expedite the process. The goal may be 2015, but if the Minnesota Timberwolves agree to a deal of this caliber, Mitch Kupchak might just pull the trigger.