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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

5 Moves Los Angeles Lakers Need To Make During Free Agency

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5 Moves Los Angeles Lakers Should Make During Free Agency

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As Kobe Bryant recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, his team will attempt to make a recovery of their own. The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in a precarious situation. The additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash didn’t merit the anticipated results, and a team predicted by some to make a trip to the NBA Finals, struggled to make the playoffs.

Questions abound as the Lakers enter the offseason. Will they be able to re-sign Dwight Howard? When will Kobe return and how healthy will he be?

The Lakers are in salary cap purgatory, which limits their options. Mitch Kupchak will have to make wise moves if the Lakers are to return to contention. The sad news for Lakers fans is that there isn’t a quick fix.

One silver lining is that the team has cap room in 2014, and Steve Nash will be the only player left on the payroll. The summer of 2014 features LeBron James' second decision, and the Lakers need to make lala land as attractive as possible.

Historically, the Lakers organization has been able to attract marquee free agents and stay relevant as a title contender from generation to generation. The Lakers have signed Shaquille O'Neal as a free agent, traded for Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Howard, as well as acquired draft picks that turned into Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Bryant. These moves illustrate the Lakers' ability to repeatedly reinvent themselves. Taking the following steps will set up the Lakers for what could be an epic rebuild in 2014 and allow them to reinvent themselves once again.

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Trade or Amnesty Pau Gasol

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The Lakers tried this before; Gasol would have been shipped to Houston as part of a three-way deal that would have netted Chris Paul. His stock has dropped recently, but Gasol is still one of the best post players in the league and a valuable arrow in any contender's quiver.

The Lakers have several options where Gasol is concerned. Option A is to swing for the fences; the Lakers would trade Gasol to Houston for a low earning player, in what would essentially be a salary dump. Then they'd amnesty Kobe, and the two moves would free $50 million of cap space for next year. There are more moves they can make with their veterans, but essentially they'd have enough room to make a run at Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. One or both of them would need to take a discount, but they would probably have to do that anywhere they attempt to play together.

Option B is to find a trading partner and acquire a young player who can contribute for the next three to five years. Kevin Love's name is batted around a lot, as is Josh Smith's. A dark horse trading partner could be the Miami Heat. If they lose tonight, Chris Bosh could be on the trading block. Gasol would give the Heat the inside presence they lack, and Bosh gives the Lakers much needed athleticism.

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Clear Cap Space

Cap room
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Let go of all free agents except Earl Clark: This clears the cap room and would bring the Lakers' cap number higher than $69.7 million.

Waiving Chris Duhon: Duhon is on the books for $3.75 million but is guaranteed only $1.5 million if he is waived by June 30. This brings L.A.'s cap number to $67.4 million

Declining Jodie Meeks' team option: The Lakers would still be able to re-sign him to a smaller deal afterward, but by declining Meeks' $1.55 million option, L.A.'s cap number further reduces to $65.6 million.

Amnestying Kobe Bryant: It's a controversial move, but if they could get Kobe to sit this year out and come back to the team next year at a smaller salary it could put them in position to sign a free agent like LeBron James in the summer of 2014.

Amnesty Pau Gasol: The play of Gasol over the past year would indicate that he’s not worth the over $19 million that he’s set to make. He’s already played in 12 seasons and may not be able to compete at an elite level consistently.

If the Lakers don’t use the amnesty clause on Gasol, it may be because the team wants to trade him. With just one year left on his contract, the seven-footer is a valuable commodity on the trade market. Even as he struggled this year he was involved in several trade rumors.

The man formerly known as Ron Artest has a $7.7 million player option for next year. After the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs, World Peace said he didn’t know for sure whether or not he’d be back, but it’s not likely that he’ll walk away from that kind of money.

There has been speculation throughout this season that World Peace would end up being the victim of the amnesty provision. His skills have declined in his four years with the Lakers, and they might be better off playing a younger option at small forward.

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Sign and Trade Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard
Jayne Kamin Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers need to face reality; Dwight Howard is not re-signing with them. If he does, it will be as a last resort. Howard was traded to the Lakers last year and played a full season with them. At this point, if Howard doesn't have enough information to make a decision he never will.

There are no are no perfect solutions, but a viable option may be across the hallway. Rumors are swirling that the Clippers are willing to part with Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe in exchange for Howard via sign and trade.

The move would help both teams, but it could be revolutionary for the Lakers. Griffin is already the second most popular player in L.A., and his flashy style is perfect for the league's flashiest team. Griffin might also feel more pressure to improve his game with the intense media spotlight that the Lakers garner. Throw in Bledsoe and it's a good deal for the Lakers, especially considering Howard doesn't really want to play for them.

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Sign Chris Paul

Chris Paul
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming David Stern wouldn't block it again, Chris Paul would be a perfect fit for the Lakers and they would gain arguably the league's best point guard. The problem is wooing Paul since the Lakers aren't as appealing of a destination as they once were. The team is aging and Kobe is hurt, but the lure of the Lakers is always enticing.

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Rehire Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson
Jayne Kamin Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I don't care if they have to stage a coup or arrange an "accident", Phil Jackson needs to be the Lakers coach next year. For goodness sake, Jeanie Buss is his fiance. I'm not sure if someone didn't get a Christmas card or Phil didn't pass the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. Jim Buss needs to get over himself and let Phil comeback. The D'Antoni experiment hasn't worked on any level.

Bringing Phil back gives the Lakers tremendous flexibility, and if they decided to amnesty Kobe, signing Phil would lessen the PR blow. Phil also has strong relationships with Howard, Kobe and Gasol. Did I mention the 11 rings? This needs to happen now.