The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of decisions to make in the offseason.
Coming off their worst season in almost a decade, the Lakers will look to get better, despite having no cap space to work with. There will be several free agents that could help L.A., but the organization would have to be very creative in order to acquire one of them.
Below are three players that could help Los Angeles next season, but might be hard for the franchise to land.
Pierce is one of just nine NBA players to play for one team with for at least a 15-year career. There’s a good chance that will change, though, in the offseason.
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The Boston Celtics have the option to pick up the final year on Pierce’s contract, which is worth a little over $15 million. He has been the team’s leading scorer in 12 of the last 13 seasons, as well as the face of the franchise. However, with Boston’s first-round playoff exit, they may not be looking to pay that much money to a 35-year-old.
According to CSN New England, Celtics sideline reporter Greg Dickerson says Pierce doesn’t expect to be back in 2013-2014.
“I know that the company that Paul Pierce hangs around in, they do not believe -- and I don't think Paul Pierce believes -- that he is going to be brought back next year at $15 million,” said Dickerson. “I know for a fact that people around Paul Pierce have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that he's played his final game in a Boston Celtics uniform.”
If Boston is looking to deal Pierce, a trade with L.A. might make sense. Re-signing Dwight Howard would allow the Lakers to send Pau Gasol to the Celtics for Pierce, giving them the perimeter player they desperately need.
The L.A. times reported that the clubs once discussed a Gasol for Rajon Rondo swap, so a deal between the two rivals isn’t out of the realm of possibility. A trade may not be likely, but the salaries match up, and a trade could help both teams.
In late 2011, the Lakers agreed to trade Gasol for Chris Paul in a multi-team deal. The move was ultimately vetoed by David Stern, and Paul was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers, shortly after.
This summer, Paul will be a free agent. The Clippers season ended abruptly in the first round, and there have been rumors that he hasn’t gotten along with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Pacific Division winners are the heavy favorites to re-sign him, since they can offer the point guard the most money, but he is likely to at least explore his options.
Do the Lakers have a chance of landing Paul this offseason?
Before the new collective bargaining agreement, was put in place the Lakers would have had a chance to acquire Paul via a sign-and-trade. The new CBA, however, has likely ruled that out as an option, leaving the Lakers with the slimmest of chances to acquire the free agent. Teams that are forced to pay the luxury tax cannot execute a sign-and-trade. Los Angeles won't avoid paying luxury tax, unless they make significant changes.
Since there’s no way Paul would play for the mid-level exception, Los Angeles would have to make some major changes to get under the salary cap, including using the amnesty clause on either Kobe Bryant or Gasol, and making more moves to shed salary.
If Paul chooses to leave the Clippers, he’ll almost certainly be leaving Los Angeles.
A free agent like Mayo would be much more likely to sign with the Lakers than Chris Paul. The 25-year-old has an option worth just over $4 million next season, but he will make much more than that on the open market.
With Bryant, Gasol, Steve Nash and potentially Howard due to make big money next year, the Lakers will be hamstrung when it comes to free agency. Even the mid-level exception wouldn’t be enough to sign a player who averaged 15.3 points, 4.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds in the regular season.
Mayo could accept less money to return to Los Angeles and sign where he played his college ball. However, the Lakers may no longer be the attractive destination they once were. L.A. is coming off a year in which they didn’t make the playoffs until the last day of the season and got swept in the first round.
The Lakers would need to shed salary to make room for Mayo under the salary cap. There has been speculation that the Lakers would consider an amnesty Metta World Peace, though general manager Mitch Kupchak may be hesistant to make such a move for a player of Mayo's caliber.
With Bryant’s Achilles injury likely to keep him out for several games, Mayo could be one of the team’s leading scorers. However, he is much more likely to sign with a team that will give him a big contract.