As Rumors Began to Circulate, the Lakers Future Looks Bright

By on February 3, 2016

 Stephen A. Smith on ESPN GameDay with Reece Davis (left), and Jay Williams (center). (photo Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports)

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN GameDay with Reece Davis (left), and Jay Williams (center). (photo Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports)

Steven A. Smith is once again at the root of a trade rumor regarding the Los Angeles Lakers. Earlier this year Smith reported rumors that LA may be high on Kevin Durant’s interest list. The OKC star is in the last year of his contract and has been surrounded by rumors that he may be leaning towards a bigger market. This week Steven A. Smith reported that Durant’s teammate, Russell Westbrook, may be headed to LA as well. Westbrook, who grew up in Southern California, will become a free agent in 2017. According to Smith’s sources, Durant may opt in to one more year in Oklahoma City with Westbrook and head LA as a duo in 2017 after both of their contracts are expired.

While the trade rumors are speculative, it is interesting to take notice to what is happening in L.A. They landed valuable young talent in back to back drafts with the selections of Julius Randle in 2014 and D’Angelo Russell in 2015. The two guys don’t look great right now, but let’s face it, the Lakers stink. The main focus of the team is not winning or player development. The whole team is being held hostage by Kobe’s well earned “farewell” tour. And it’s hard to argue with handing Kobe the keys to the franchise. As a 5 time NBA Champion he earned it. Fans are certainly on board. He led the league in All Star votes in year where Steph Curry’s Warriors are chasing history. With Kobe putting forth his final performance, the team’s growth seems to be halted. But there is good news in this scenario.

If the draft was held today the Lakers would be in a great position. Their horrendous 10-41 record is second worst in the NBA. They would have a lottery pick that could potentially land them a Ben Simmons or Buddy Hield caliber player. With a core comprised of three lottery picks and a boat-load of cap space at their disposal, the Lakers will be well equipped for a re-build in the post-Kobe era.

While the chances of landing both Durant and Westbrook may be a long shot at best, this option is definitely worth considering. There are not many favorable targets hitting the free agent market this season. Of course there’s LeBron James, but we all know James would never leave the Eastern Conference. Even in the crazy event that he decided to leave Cleveland, there’s no way he would come out west. He is all but guaranteed to make it to the finals every year if he stays in the east. The best truly available option for the Lakers would be Andre Drummond. However, Drummond is a restricted free agent and the Pistons are expected to send a max contract his way. With LeBron and Drummond off the table the remaining contenders are headlined by DeMar DeRozan, Mike Conley, and Al Horford. While these guys may be nice additions to contenders, none of them would put the Lakers back into position to contend for a Championship.

There is one more benefit to holding out for Durant and Westbrook. If the Lakers play next season with their young roster without signing a big name free agent, they could potentially put themselves in position for another lottery pick. As a Laker fan, you might cringe at the idea of yet another disappointing season. But one more losing season could potentially result in yet another lottery pick. The Lakers could then sign Durant and Westbrook heading into 2017 with a talented young core and enough cap space to add key role players to make a legitimate run.

However the Lakers decide to handle these next two years of free agency, they are in a great position. With a young core and tons of cap space they are poised to make a splash. As great of career as Kobe has had, it must be noted that recently super stars have avoided teaming up with him. Once the Mamba leaves for good the Lakers will be on the hunt to find a super star to carry the torch. They have the money. They have the market. All that’s left is to continue the historic tradition.

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