UNDER CONTRACT: G Kobe Bryant, F Pau Gasol, C Dwight Howard, G Steve Nash, F Metta World Peace, G Steve Blake, F Antawn Jamison, F Jordan Hill, G Jodie Meeks, F Devin Ebanks, G Chris Duhon, F Earl Clark, G Darius Morris, G Andrew Goudelock
DRAFT PICKS: C Robert Sacre
FREE AGENTS: F Troy Murphy
MOVES: Here’s the bottom line for GM Mitch Kupchak’s offseason: The three biggest prizes were Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Steve Nash, and the Lakers – with no cap room – somehow got two of them. They created their own fireworks with their Fourth of July trade for Nash, an All-Star point guard. LA gave up a lot – first-rounders in 2013 and 2015, second-rounders in 2013 and 2014, $3 million and an $8.2 million trade exception to Phoenix and $27 million over three years to the 38-year-old Nash. That deal put the Lakers back in the title contention discussion. The acquisition of Howard put them at the forefront of the discussion. In a four-team blockbuster, the Lakers sent Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia and Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, a 2015 second-round pick and a 2017 first-round pick to Orlando for the game’s best big man and extra pieces Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. Their starting lineup of Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant and Nash is the best in the NBA, and their smaller but significant moves strengthened the bench. The Lakers re-signed trillion machine Devin Ebanks to a one-year deal, brought in Antawn Jamison on the veteran’s minimum, retained Darius Morris on his qualifying offer of $950,000, re-signed Jordan Hill for nearly $8 million over two years and signed Jodie Meeks for $3 million over two years. Jamison immediately becomes LA’s best bench player and should be able to back up both forward spots. Hill played well after being acquired in the Derek Fisher trade and will spell Gasol and Howard. And Meeks will be an ideal floor-stretcher with his shooting. In short, no team did better this offseason than the Lakers, who reclaimed their customary spot atop the LA sports pages. Off the court, coach Mike Brown added Steve Clifford and former head coaches Eddie Jordan and Bernie Bickerstaff as assistants. Jordan’s presence means the Lakers will be using some of his Princeton offense principles.
TO-DO LIST: It remains to be seen if the Lakers can reclaim their customary spot in the NBA Finals. This has to be the right mix, because the payroll is over $100 million and the club could set a record for most luxury tax paid by a team in one season. The plan is to re-sign Howard next summer, and a title – or playing for one – will go a long way toward getting that done. But next summer is also when the supertax kicks in, and no one of significance is coming off the books. At some point, the team will start feeling the penalties for a nine-figure payroll. It is not a foregone conclusion that Howard re-signs, either. Yes, he has spent the offseason in LA, rehabbing after back surgery. But he has occasionally shown that comedy is a higher priority than basketball, and that approach will not cut it with Bryant, who measures success only by championships. He also will miss training camp and at least the start of preseason because his back isn’t entirely healthy. If the Lakers come up short of the championship and Howard takes the blame, he may want to move on.
PROJECTION: When Nash was acquired, talk began whether he and Bryant could co-exist, which was ludicrous. Last season, Bryant played in a conventional offense without a quality point guard, had the ball in his hands more than ever and shot 43 percent, his lowest figure since his second season. When was the last time Nash’s dominance of the ball didn’t make every teammate around him better? A bigger concern should be whether the training staff of the Lakers can work the same magic on Nash as the training staff of the Suns. As for Howard, his health and willingness to put aside the funny stuff will be a huge factor in how far the Lakers go.
(RELATED: What grade did the Lakers get?)
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