Next year’s Los Angeles Lakers team could look very different from the club that began last year as the favorites in the Western Conference. After losing Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets, it appears Metta World Peace won't be on the roster in 2013-2014. The Lakers are prepared to use their amnesty clause on the veteran, according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.
Using the amnesty clause will allow the Lakers to cut their payroll by $21.5 million, according to Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times. World Peace’s player option was set to pay him $7.7 million next season. By not having the contract count against the salary cap, Los Angeles will save millions in luxury tax penalties.
With Howard and World Peace gone, the Lakers have plenty of production to replace. The two players combined to average 29.5 points, 17.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. If Kobe Bryant isn’t recovered from his Achilles’ injury in time to start the season, Los Angeles could begin the year with a starting lineup that is 60 percent different.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they won’t be able to sign any players that will have a major impact next season. In an effort replace Howard, the organization gave center Chris Kaman a one-year deal worth just over $3 million, using their mini mid-level exception. Since the Lakers are over the salary cap, they are extremely limited in what they can offer free agents. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the likes of Raja Bell, Kenyon Martin and Bobby Brown have interest in the Lakers.
If the Lakers want to make a trade of any note, they’d almost certainly have to include Pau Gasol. He’s owed over $19 million and coming off surgery, but the veteran’s one-year contract could make him appealing to other teams. However, it looks like L.A. wants to keep Gasol.
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With so few options for the Lakers to improve next season, they could be content to enter the season with their current roster and get a spot in the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery. In 2012-2013, L.A. needed all 82 games just to secure a playoff spot. Now that Bryant is injured, Steve Nash and Gasol are a year older, and Howard and World Peace are gone, Los Angeles could become accepting of a losing season and prepare for 2014. Prospects like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will make the upcoming draft the best in years, and the Lakers could benefit from having a high selection.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade could all become free agents next summer. The Lakers may decide to make no more major moves and keep their options open for one of the best free-agent classes in recent memory.