The LA Lakers Do Not Have a Bright Future
A Guest Blog by Geoff Nelowet:
As has been overly speculated, the LA Lakers have looked substantially older this year than they did last season during their second straight championship season. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom are all over 30 years old, but ultimately, the Lakers are still playing very solid basketball at 46-20, good for third in the Western Conference. Can the Lakers win the title this season? Sure, but it’s going to be a very long and difficult road. What’s most striking isn’t what’s going to happen this season, but how they’re going to play over the next three seasons? I think a more pointed question would be: How will the LA Lakers do when Kobe Bryant is making $30 million dollars in 2013?
Yes, Kobe Bryant will be making $30 million at age 35, and nearly $85 million between 2011-2013. Considering that he hasn’t nearly been the dominant and dynamic scorer of old for probably two seasons now, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever come close to equalling the value of the back end of his contract.
This is highly problematic. Other than Pau Gasol, the Lakers really don’t have a player they can point to and say, “he will definitely be a huge part of our future.” No, I can’t put Andrew Bynum in that category until he proves that he can be healthy and be an every-day player. Until that happens, the Lakers do not have a bright future.
This year, the Lakers are playing with the highest payroll in the NBA. Next year? It goes up. The year after? They’ll be above the luxury tax — no matter what that number ends up being. 2013? They’ll be above what the luxury tax is today. So what’s going to be the plan as Kobe’s age — and his pay grade — are quickly rising?
Well, there really isn’t a good answer to that question. The reality is that the Lakers were greatly fortunate to even have a shot at discussing the trade for Pau Gasol — let alone landing him in what was one of the most absurd salary dumps in NBA history. In other words, a player of Pau Gasol’s caliber isn’t coming around anytime soon unless it’s a superstar willing to take a huge pay cut or a sign-and-trade. Both scenarios seem unlikely, and a high draft pick is likely out of the question as well. Really, the only thing the Lakers have going for them is the fact that LA is still a huge destination ( a la the New York Knicks), and players will always be eager to play for them — for the right price.
Obviously, 2012-2013 is a long way away in NBA years, but the fact remains that the Lakers have boxed themselves into their current roster, and it’s very hard to imagine that they’ll even be a realistic championship team next season. Of course, deals can be done and players can switch teams — this is the NBA of course, but what can the Lakers really do that makes sense? Perhaps parting with Bynum while his stock is high, but even that likely would never truly pay dividends. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, and my belief is that the mystique of the LA Lakers will eventually wear off and it will become more and more evident that the Lakers do not have a solid foundation for the future.