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Monday, January 27, 2014
Lakers mailbag: The power of Love in 2015

By Arash Markazi

So, this season hasn’t gone the way you thought it would Lakers fans and you’re not quite sure what to do. It’s understandable. After winning 16 championships and playing in 31 NBA Finals, this team has and will always have championship expectations. They have only missed the postseason five times in a franchise history that dates back to 1948. In all likelihood, this season will mark just the sixth time they’ve missed the playoffs and we’re here to talk you through it.

Tweet your questions, comments or concerns about the Lakers with an #ESPNLAKERS hashtag and we’ll do our best to answer as many as we can each Monday the rest of the way.

The Lakers are falling fast south of the border. What needs to be done besides dumping everyone and starting fresh? -- @JackieEllen83

Well, they can’t dump everyone and start fresh as much as that might be tempting. Remember, they re-signed Kobe Bryant to a two-year $50 million contract. Steve Nash is still on the books for almost $10 million next season if he comes back this season and unless Nick Young opts out, you’re looking at Young, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall coming back as well (for deals around the minimum).

Outside of that, the Lakers are still in position to offer a max contract or perhaps sign a couple of players for less than the max. The problem is this free agent class is top heavy with stars who are all expected to stay with their current teams, such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. That leaves you looking at guys like Luol Deng and Lance Stephenson, who aren’t going to make the Lakers a championship team overnight. Perhaps the Lakers’ best chance at getting a star player this offseason will be through the draft, if they end up with a top five pick.

Mike D'Antoni is a great coach for this team going nowhere. Does he need to be canned to attract star free agents? -- @Dmagallon3

I would agree that Mike D’Antoni isn’t the problem right now for an injury-riddled team that isn’t going anywhere this season. Changing coaches now isn’t going to solve anything. The big question is what will they do after this season? If Carmelo Anthony is a target, you’d have to imagine the Lakers would also be open to making a coaching change, given how that relationship ended in New York. However, if they don’t realistically think they can land an all-star free agent, don’t be surprised if D’Antoni is back. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak believe in him and don’t seem to be in a rush to pull the plug on his tenure before the end of his three-year, $12 million contract.

If Kevin Love wants out of Minnesota and Carmelo Anthony isn't staying with the Knicks, what [are] Kupchak and Buss waiting for? Make it happen!! -- @stangjz

Kevin Love will be a free agent in 2015 so that’s not going to happen this offseason unless the Lakers make a trade for him but the Lakers don’t currently have anything that would entice the Wolves to trade their 25-year old franchise player. If Love is a target for the Lakers in 2015, they would probably pass on signing a max player to a long-term deal this offseason with the hopes of getting Love and making a push for one other marquee free agent with the cap room they will have. Players like Rajon Rondo, Arron Afflalo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Roy Hibbert and Tyson Chandler are all eligible to be free agents in 2015. As far as Anthony goes, the Lakers will likely make a push for him this offseason but chances are he’ll stay in New York.

Should the Lakers amnesty Steve Nash after this season? -- @jeffmG35

The Lakers can’t amnesty Nash. If Nash decides to retire for medical reasons, even if he returns to play three or fewer games this season, he would receive the balance of his salary but his $9.7 million would not be counted towards the Lakers’ salary cap next season. The key is he needs to have played in fewer than 10 games this season for that option to be available and he’s already played in six games this season. If Nash returns (and that continues to be something he is working toward) this season and wants to play next season, the Lakers might look to use their stretch provision, allowing them to waive him and stretch his cap number over the following three seasons.

Should Elgin Baylor get a statue outside Staples Center? --@bfred34

Sure. He and Wilt Chamberlain would be next on the list if it were up to me. I would have no problem if they had a statue for every player who had their jersey retired. After all, they gave a statue to Oscar De La Hoya, who lost his only fight at Staples Center.

What is the realistic chance Pau re-signs with Lakers without asking for so much? -- @CallMe___Kratos

I think Pau is probably gone after this season but if he doesn’t get any crazy offers in free agency and the Lakers fail to land anyone big in free agency, which are both are real possibilities, I could see them coming back together and working on a deal. The important thing to consider is the Lakers’ long-term plan. If the Lakers pass on this year’s free agents to make a splash in 2015 by going after, for example, Love and Rondo, they can’t sign Pau or anyone else to longer than a one-year deal. It would be a similar situation to this season where the Lakers have tried to keep their flexibility for future spending.

If the Lakers get the No. 1 pick, which would be the only thing that makes all of this worthwhile, who do you take? -- @heyjdey

The one big silver lining of the Lakers’ struggles this season is they are having their worst season in years at the same time the NBA will have its best draft in years. I think there are five franchise players at the top of this draft in Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart and Julius Randle. I would take Parker with the first pick and would be just as happy to take Wiggins with the second pick, but any pick in the top five would leave the Lakers with a solid player.