2013 Los Angeles Lakers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Los Angeles Lakers (Last Year: 45-37)

2012-13 Season Summary:
Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash … all on the same team? What could possibly go wrong? The Lakers were built to make a championship run and instead things went as smoothly as Don Draper and Ted Chaough’s relationship since the merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Price with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough. It was so rough that head coach Mike Brown lasted all of five games before getting the axe as the team eventually called on Mike D’Antoni to try and right the ship.

Howard was still very productive, but didn’t quite live up to expectations and never fully meshed the way the front office was hoping he would. I would write more about this, but we heard it a million times from the ESPN talking heads during the season, so I’ll save you any further suffering. Nash and Gasol were banged up during the season. When healthy, D’Antoni couldn’t find the proper way to use Gasol alongside Howard, while Nash looked as if his age was finally starting to catch up to him.

Yet, there was still belief that if the Lakers could pull it together in time, they would be able to make a title run. Low and behold, the pieces started to fit together down the stretch as L.A. won nine of their final 11 games to sneak into the playoffs. Any postseason hopes quickly came crashing down though when Kobe ruptured his Achilles tendon. With a thin, underwhelming bench trying to help fill the void, the Lakers were swept in the opening round of the playoffs; a fitting ending to a nightmare rollercoaster ride of a season.

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Pau Gasol/#Robert Sacre

PF: Jordan Hill

SF: *Metta World Peace/#Devin Ebanks

SG: Kobe Bryant/^Jodie Meeks

PG: Steve Nash/Steve Blake/Chris Duhon/#Darius Morris/#Andrew Goudelock

NBA Free Agents:

C-Dwight Howard (UFA)

F-Earl Clark (UFA)

PF-Antawn Jamison (UFA)

*SF-Metta World Peace (PO)

^SG-Jodie Meeks (TO)

#SF-Devin Ebanks (RFA)

#PG-Darius Morris (RFA)

#PG-Andrew Goudelock (RFA)

#C-Robert Sacre (RFA)

2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $78.2 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Dwight Dilemma: Give him a monster extension? Try to work out a sign and trade? Just let him walk? The Lakers have a major decision on the horizon in terms of what to do with Howard. Letting him leave without getting anything in return would be a killer since L.A. doesn’t have the cap space to replace him in free agency. On the other hand, did Howard show enough to earn a max deal and be the future cornerstone of the franchise? A sign and trade might be the best option as it would likely add at least a couple of quality pieces. Decisions, decisions … .

2. Shooting Guard: With Kobe’s date of return in question, the Lakers need to have an insurance policy in case his recovery drags on. Even if Kobe is healthy sooner than expected, finding a scorer to come off the bench and provide some offensive punch will be critical to L.A.’s success, so adding another shooting guard would kill two birds with one stone.

3. Frontcourt/Forward Depth: This obviously becomes increasingly important if Howard is not back in a Lakers jersey next season. As it stands right now, Jordan Hill is the only reserve under contract for next season. Earl Clark had a breakout season and could be re-signed, but even finding another small forward is a necessity since Metta World Peace is on the down side of his career and will be a free agent next summer (assuming he picks up the final year on his player option which he would be foolish not to do.)

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