As 16 NBA teams are in the 2014 playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers are already looking towards next season. L.A. finished the regular season at 27-55, recording the sixth-worst record in the league.
The organization has a few big decisions to make this offseason. In all likelihood, the roster will undergo many changes in the summer. Only Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre have guaranteed contracts for the 2014-2015 season.
The list of possible changes might begin with the 2014 NBA Draft. Because of their poor record, the Lakers will have their highest pick since they selected James Worthy No.1 overall in 1982. This year, Los Angeles has over a 21 percent chance of landing a top three pick.
L.A. isn’t allowed to trade the pick before the draft, considering they have already sent their 2015 first-rounder to the Phoenix Suns. The NBA doesn’t allow teams to trade first-round selections in consecutive seasons. While the Lakers are guaranteed to make the pick, they can still deal that player, after the draft.
There is a chance that Los Angeles will, eventually, trade the prospect that they draft. General manager Mitch Kupchak has said there’s a possibility the team will move their first-round pick, though he says there haven’t been many discussions. A potential trade will depend on who the Lakers select.
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The projected top three picks (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Jabari Parker) have separated themselves from the rest of the class. Either one of those college basketball stars would have a lot of value, and could help land L.A. a top star that is headed for free agency. There have been rumors that the Lakers will try to trade for Kevin Love, and their first-round pick would certainly have to be a part of a potential deal.
No matter what the Lakers decide to do with their top pick, there’s a good chance the team will need to search for a new starting center. Pau Gasol’s contract has expired, and he might look to go elsewhere in free agency.
For the past few years, Gasol’s name has been at the center of trade rumors. The team even agreed to deal him in late 2011 in a package for point guard Chris Paul, but then-NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed the deal. The Lakers received offers for the big man before the 2014 trade deadline, but wouldn’t have gotten anything of much value, in return.
Gasol has seen a precipitous drop in his production, since Mike D’Antoni was hired as the team’s head coach. In 2012-2013, he averaged a career-low 13.7 points. If D’Antoni comes back in 2014-2015, Gasol’s chances of returning to L.A. could decrease even more.
"I'm going to listen closely to what the Lakers will have to offer and say about the team's situation and position at the time," Gasol said. "We know what it is today, but we don't know what it is going to be July 1. See how the draft is going to play out, who they are going to end up drafting. Things like that that can have an impact or an effect on the structure of the team."
Gasol made over $19 million this season, but the Lakers could try to bring him back on a much cheaper deal. The L.A. Times reports Kupchak cautioned the organization to keep Gasol, even though part-owner and executive Jim Buss was in favor of making a trade.
According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers are among the most likely destinations for the veteran.