Lakers Trade Rumors: Free Agents O.J. Mayo, Or Corey Brewer, And A Smart Draft Pick Might Be L.A.'s Best Chance To Excel In 2013-2014
The 2012-2013 NBA season was a forgettable one for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team barely made the playoffs, and got swept by the San Antonio Spurs despite paying $129.5 million in salary and luxury taxes.
The news heading into next season is not very encouraging. The Lakers will be without Kobe Bryant for five-to-eight months due to a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg. Dwight Howard is considering playing for perhaps the Houston Rockets or Dallas Mavericks, and there is limited salary-cap flexibility to add a significant player.
On the bright side, Bryant might be ready by the start of the season because few players devote as much time to offseason workouts like Bryant. The star guard could be out until as late as January, which means at worst he can still play a majority of the season. As for Howard, no team can offer the center more money than L.A., so his chances of staying with the Lakers remains high. There have been rumors that Howard would prefer not to play with Bryant, but Bryant's contract expires at the end of the season, leaving plenty of cap space for the Lakers to add a player or players for the 2014-2015 season that would be more in sync with Howard. The Lakers' vote of confidence in head coach Mike D'Antoni, over the rather shaky confidence they had with Mike Brown entering the season, will also help L.A. move forward.
The Lakers will look to find suitable players to enhance the bench, with four starters returning under contract. Pau Gasol is entering the final year of his deal, and remains the Lakers top trade candidate. The big man has had knee problems, but many teams may want to take a chance on a four-time All-Star who still scored 13.7 points per game, and finished the season with three triple-double efforts in six games. In April, he finished with a scoring average of 17.5 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting, to go along with a 12.1 rebounds per game average.
The situation is different for Metta World Peace, who has an early-termination option for the final year of his $7.7-million contract. The Lakers might consider using their one-time amnesty on World Peace, but more than likely he will be sticking around.
Steve Nash, who struggled through injuries, is expected to be back at full strength, and has two years remaining on his deal.
Finding quality reserves appears to be the most realistic task for general manager Mitch Kupchak. Without first round draft picks to use as trade bait, the Lakers may have no choice but to either deal Gasol, or find free agents who might be willing to play in L.A. on a discount. Due to injuries, depth was a major issue for the Lakers in 2012-2013, and strengthening the bench is an important priority.
There are a few players who might be valuable additions. Perhaps the most obvious player is Corey Brewer. The Lakers would have to use their mini mid-level exception to sign the 27-year-old. Brewer averaged 12.1 points per game for an energetic Denver Nuggets team, and could be the best sixth-man option for a Lakers squad that may want to ease the minutes on World Peace.
Another option is O.J. Mayo, who is expected to earn just more that $5 million next season. Mayo would be playing less than two miles north of where he played college basketball when he spent a year at USC, and grew up idolizing Bryant. Mayo would be a fill in for Bryant should his recovery take longer than expected. When Bryant returns, the Lakers could use a three-guard line up at times, and perhaps just have Bryant and Mayo on the court when Nash is on the bench.
The Lakers have the 48th selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, and could add a bench player with the pick. The Lakers have success with second-round draft choices in the past, and while this draft class is weak on potential stars there are possible gems in late picks. One possible player that could help the Lakers is Ray McCallum. The athletic point guard from Detroit could be a suitable backup for Nash. He shot 49.1 percent in his junior season, and averaged 18.7 points per game. The Lakers other option is improved play from Andrew Goudelock or Darius Morris. Both players put up decent numbers when given significant minutes against the Spurs in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs.
It's a longshot to suggest that any of these moves will be enough for the Lakers to win another NBA title (which is the team's goal nearly every season), but it would at least position the team to improve off a lackluster season, and strengthen their chances of going deep into the postseason, and perhaps play spoiler.
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