With the worst record in the Western Conference, and Kobe Bryant out for the rest of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking towards the future. Considering the franchise will have money to spend after this year, a few upcoming free agents have already been linked to the club.
This summer, Carmelo Anthony might be the most coveted free agent among NBA teams that have salary cap space. LeBron James is likely to opt out of his contract in the offseason, but the possibility of him leaving the Miami Heat may not be very high. Anthony, though, could be looking for a fresh start, after four years of little success with the New York Knicks. There has been speculation that the Lakers would be his top choice, if he leaves the Big Apple.
In addition to Anthony, Kevin Love has been linked to the Lakers. The forward won’t be a free agent until 2015, but few around the league expect him to re-sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love played college basketball at UCLA and would become an even bigger star in L.A. There’s a chance the Timberwolves will trade Love before he hits free agency, in order to make sure that they don’t lose him for nothing. Prior to the trade deadline, Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported that the Lakers were putting together an offer for Love.
While the Lakers might have a realistic shot of landing Anthony or Love, they won’t be able to afford both. The two All-Stars will receive max-contracts, and with Bryant set to make $48.5 million over the next two years, L.A. can’t pay all three.
If given the choice, the Lakers might prefer to add Love, instead of Anthony. The Timberwolves star is four years younger than last season’s scoring champ. In 2013-2014, he ranks fourth and second in points and rebounds per game, respectively. However, it’s not likely that Los Angeles would be willing to save their money and wait for Love. Bryant will be 36 years old at the start of next season, and the team might want to pair him with another star as soon as possible. The Lakers could pursue a trade for love in the summer, but it's not a given that Minnesota will deal him.
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The Lakers are expected to make a strong push for Anthony in the summer, but they won’t be the only team that goes after the forward. Other than the Knicks, who’ll try to re-sign their best player, the Chicago Bulls could be a potential destination for Anthony. ESPN’s Chris Broussard recently reported that Joakim Noah has been recruiting Anthony to go to the Windy City. The report also stated that Derrick Rose wants to play with the Syracuse product.
The Bulls could have the edge in pursuing Anthony. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Chicago has more of a chance to sign Anthony than L.A. does. The Bulls, who are currently 35-29 without Rose, could give Anthony a better chance of winning a championship. The Lakers play in a tougher conference, and are 20 games under .500, while they play without their top player.
As some of the league’s best players hit free agency, the Lakers are bound to improve next season. However, landing a top free agent might be difficult given the assets of other suitors.