When the Los Angeles Lakers decided to give Kobe Bryant a huge extension over the next two years, it severely handicapped their financial situation. The organization wanted Bryant to be a Laker for life, a rare accomplishment in the modern NBA. But with Bryant occupying such a huge portion of their cap space, the team has had to resort to finding bargain deals after striking out on several top free agents. And while most people are unhappy, Mitch Kupchak has been able to bring in quality players to field a competitive team in the deep Western Conference.
The Lakers were unable to convince LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to come to Los Angeles, but both were just a pipe dream. The team could have looked at other top free agents, but chose to bring back several players from last year’s roster and keep their options open in the future. It is clear that they are choosing to pursue the top players available, not willing to settle for a budding star. But Kupchak did the right thing by not throwing huge amounts of money to players who hadn’t proved their worth yet.
Instead, he brought back fan favorite Nick Young to a reasonable contract, and kept Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry, two players who give the team youth and athleticism, to one-year deals. Bringing in Jeremy Lin while also securing a first-round draft pick was a very good move, as the team needed to take advantage of their cap situation and add assets for the future. Bringing in Carlos Boozer and signing Jordan Hill might have been a bit of a stretch, but neither move hurts their financial flexibility in the future. The decision to draft Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson was outstanding, as both look to have very promising futures. And signing Ed Davis for so little money was arguably their best move of the offseason.
The Lakers may not be contenders in the Western Conference, but they should field a competitive and exciting team to watch. The team has popular players throughout their roster which should keep fans interested, and the return of Bryant will be a huge talking point. Kupchak may not have had a lot to work with in the offseason, but to his credit, he did a good job of not throwing in the towel, and he put together a team that fans will want to watch.