What the Lakers Should Really be Worried About

We ranted, we argued, we said the Lakers should have parted ways with Kobe. When it was still possible we thought they should have amnestied him. Well, that ship has sailed. It's not worth worrying about Kobe any more now that he's signed to the worst and most untradable contract in the NBA. In terms of looking to the future, the pragmatic route on the Lakers is to worry about other things.

The Books

Let's start with how the Lakers financial wise. Next season they only have four players on the books:

Player Salary
Kobe Bryant $23,500,500
Steve Nash $9,701,000
Nick Young $1,227,985
Robert Sacre $915,243

With the salary cap likely to be close to $60,000,000, that gives the Lakers a little under $25,000,000 to restock at least another eight players. Actually given Kobe and Nash's age and injury concerns and the terrible play of Nick Young, the Lakers really need a whole new team. Sacre may be a bright spot as he's young, he's a big man, and he's been productive so far.

But even if the Lakers "win" the draft lottery, their cupboard is bare next season. And although the Lakers typically enjoy the edge of being able to massively overpay players, the issue is going to be how. When you sign new players, they have to fit under the cap, or fit under very cheap contracts. It will be hard to get two or three good players on the free agent market. That brings up the real issue.

Jordan Hill

No, seriously, where did this guy come from? Until his super fast "foul out" against Memphis, Hill had yet to play a bad game this season. He's had sporadic minutes, but currently holds the third highest Wins per 48 minutes among all players with 500+ minutes. This puts the Lakers in an interesting position. Hill may be a star that can help get this franchise back on track. He may just be on a hot streak. Either way, the problem is that he's on a contract year.

The good news is that Hill's limited minutes currently have his points per game below ten. But anyone that can extrapolate out his numbers can see with starters minutes he's a 16 point and 13 rebound a night guy. Next season he'll just be entering his prime. This makes the Lakers situation difficult. Let's say they keep his minutes low. That might deflate his contract value, but savvy stats teams will realize this (remember Daryl Morey giving Omer Asik "too much" money?). The Spurs, Mavericks, and 76ers all easily have the money to offer up a "value contract". The Lakers can only hope to keep Hill on a cheap contract if he wants to play on a terrible Lakers team led by Kobe. Kobe has a history of keeping top bigs in L.A....right?

Let's say instead that Hill's minutes go up and he looks like a star. The Lakers either lose him (like I said, the Mavericks and 76ers look to have bright futures and tons of cap space) or offer him a good deal. If that happens, they'll be left with Sacre and Hill and not much else. Although filling out your starting bigs is a great place to start, $5-$10 million in cap space and a few exceptions won't get you a solid rotation.

Go Long!

I'll be honest, until the Lakers let Dwight walk, amnestied Metta World Peace, and gave Kobe that stupid contract, they were in alright shape. Even now, they're actually not too bad off. If they keep Sacre and Hill, let Kobe and Nash "fade" away, and start grabbing smart cheap pieces, then in two or three years they should be contending again. The problem is that this thinking requires taking a "long term" approach. Based on their current history, I'd still be a little worried.