Kobe Bryant is gone from the Los Angeles Lakers and that’s the first good news for the franchise that has struggled in recent years. Armed with possibly the No. 2 pick in a deep draft, a return to the playoffs is not farfetched for the Hollywood squad especially if they can acquire a talent like Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason.
Here are 3 steps for the Los Angeles Lakers and how they can get back to form as one of the playoff teams in the tough Western Conference next season:
1. Forget about Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant had his celebrated “farewell tour” for 82 games last season and it was but a reminder that the franchise was playing for nothing in the regular season. Led by their tank commander Byron Scott, who was recently fired, the Lakers accomplished what they wanted all along the entire year and that was to be as bad as possible without the Lakers fans noticing much and get a high draft pick.
Kobe Bryant’s greatest gift to the franchise as he bids goodbye from the NBA is that his salary of $25M, among the biggest in the league last year, is now gone along with his retirement. This means that the Lakers will have the extra millions of dollars to work with in the offseason as they try to target a big name free agent like Durant.
2. Trade the 2016 NBA draft pick for DeMarcus Cousins
This pick could go as high as the top overall pick where they can get top prospect Ben Simmons. But with the Lakers hope of getting back to the playoffs, L.A. is better of trading this pick and get an established veteran to complement their young guys of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.
If they want a superstar in return, the Lakers can even package the 2016 first round pick with one of the three and get someone like DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings.
3. Go hard after Kevin Durant in 2016 free agency
This one is the toughest as Kevin Durant has lots of other options including staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, the Thunder can fail to win championship again this season and that would put the pressure on Durant if he wants to stay in OKC or restart his career with another NBA squad.
Durant will command max money similar to that of Bryant and if signed by L.A., he will immediately be crowned the next Lakers great to carry the celebrated franchise and be the face of the team for years to come. Depending on how the Lakers deal with their own free agents (Clarkson), the Lakers may even have enough money to sign another star alongside Durant in the 2016 offseason.
A core of D’Angelo Russel, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins is enough to put the Lakers back in the Western Conference powerhouse contenders next season. The Lakers will just have to be aggressive in making those moves this 2016 offseason.