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Now that Dwight Howard is headed to Houston, what’s next for the Lakers?

Jul 5, 2013, 8:34 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Bryant and point guard Nash of Canada after shaking hands after beating the Charlotte Bobcats during an NBA basketball game in Charlotte Reuters

Dwight Howard has made his free agent decision, and all indications are that he’s leaving Los Angeles in order to get a fresh start in Houston with the Rockets.

There are plenty of topics for discussion surrounding this, obviously, including whether or not Howard made the right choice, what his real reasons for leaving were, and what the Rockets’ roster may ultimately look like when all is said and done from a personnel standpoint.

But let’s look at the most intriguing non-Rockets angle of the story that’s out there: What’s next for the Lakers?

In terms of next season, the answer is not much.

The new collective bargaining agreement has stronger, more prohibitive luxury tax penalties for exceeding the league’s salary cap, which is expected to be just over $58 million next season.

Even with Howard gone, the Lakers have over $70 million in salary committed for 2013-14, and will still have some roster spots that will need to be filled, likely with minimum salary players.

Kobe Bryant is on the books for $30 million, Pau Gasol for over $19 million, Steve Nash for over $9 million, and Metta World Peace for over $7.7 million. The Lakers still have the amnesty option to consider, which would allow them to wipe a player from the roster and his contract from the available money the team would have to spend under the salary cap.

It’s definitely a possibility with either World Peace or Gasol, but the most likely scenario could see the Lakers standing pat for a season, and playing it out with the talent already in place.

The reason that would make sense is due to what the cap picture for the Lakers looks like the following season, when as of right now they only have $9.7 million committed to Nash — and that’s it.

A Lakers franchise that is in the business of putting itself in position to contend for titles season after season would be able to build around several free agents in 2014, and immediately return to relevance. Even if they don’t land the biggest names available, which happen to include LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, they can create a team full of second-tier guys that can provide an immediate influx of youth and talent to accompany Bryant in his final couple of NBA seasons, while putting a solid foundation in place for the future at the same time.

One other thing L.A. may look at is beginning this process sooner rather than later.

We already saw the Celtics make that decision by sending Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, and if the Lakers feel like this upcoming season will be a complete lost cause — which may depend heavily on how much time Bryant misses recovering from his Achilles injury, and just how effective he’ll be once he returns — then they may look to move the expiring contracts of Gasol and/or World Peace if they can get young assets in return, or even a high lottery pick in the 2014 draft which is top heavy with elite-level talent.

Whatever the Lakers’ course of action, it won’t involve retooling immediately by chasing one of the relevant free agents still left on the market. There’s no way to do that anywhere remotely responsibly financially, so the team will in all likelihood play out next year with the roster as currently constructed, with an eye on truly rebuilding to contend for a championship when the cap space is available the following season.

  1. cantonbound13 - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    I thought he said his heart was in Orlando 2 years ago

  2. isujames - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Dumb laker fans really think lebron would leave his dynasty with his buds and bolt to L.A, don’t be silly.

  3. isujames - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    My heat are on a championship roll, all they need is some toughness in the middle to keep piling up the trophies.

  4. soundsofsuccess7 - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Amnesty Nash, trade Pau, move forward for next year’s free agent class with many picks and Kobe and Metta.

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      The Lakers are not allowed to Amnesty Nash, he was signed after the CBA was put in place.

  5. mergaam - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    Im not a fan of a team but a fan of the NBA.

    1. Amnesty Kobe. He wont play for another team next year so when he comes back he’ll sign a cheaper contract.
    2. Trade Gasol and/or MWP for picks. Any first round picks will do.
    3. Maybe if you tell LeBron that Phil is coming back he might join.
    4. The Lakers will get a high lottery pick. Probably not #1 but maybe Jabari Parker?
    Kobe and LeBron in the triangle offense. My 2 cents.

  6. bigdeuceuno - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:30 AM

    Trade steve nash for Rudy Gay ASAP!!!!!! Go Lakers!

  7. tcarness - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:32 AM

    Look as a lifelong Laker fan I saw those great years of Magic/Kareem/James/Coop/Scott etc..then the down years..Threatt/Edwards/Divac/Van Exel etc…we were done then but then Kobe/Shaq/Rice/Fish etc…and then Kobe/Gasol/Bynum etc… we always find a way..and I like to see the rebuild done the Laker way… just look at the Championships..I am behind us and we all know Dwight is a big kid trying to act like a man. He is not a Laker and neither was Gary Payton/Malone etc…good bye to a player that reminds me of a kid who always cries when he gets picked on or called names…Harden is the heart of that Rocket team..second fiddle is Dwight. Laker Nation is strong and always will be.

  8. bigdeuceuno - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    Please Amnesty Steve Nash he is done! And sign Brandon Jennings Asap!!!!!! Or trade nash for rudy gay and then sign Jennings or collision go Lakers

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      The Lakers cannot amnesty Nash, not permitted by the CBA because he was signed after the new deal went in place. Only MWP and Gasol and Kobe could be amnestied.

  9. ilovehoops1 - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    The Lakers can Go after KLove & Lebron.

  10. jimeejohnson - Jul 6, 2013 at 4:19 AM

    Lakers release a statement: “waaaaaaaaaaaah”!

  11. dolphins4 - Jul 6, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    They’ll resign that big stiff Bynum.

  12. kerbyjr1 - Jul 6, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    Nash with 9 million left and he is almost 40 bad deal

  13. spursareold - Jul 6, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    A high lottery pick for MWP or Gasoline.

    Bwahhhh ha ha!!!

  14. 1historian - Jul 6, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Hi Lakers fans,

    Celts fan here. My guys will probably (?) be in the lottery next season. If they don’t get a high enough pick (next year’s draft is supposed to be one of the best in years) they can take their own lottery pick and the Nets’ #1 which they own, and trade up even higher.

    In 2015 they have 2 #1 picks, the same in 2016, 1 in 2017 and 2 in 2018.

    Then there is the matter of next year’s FA crop, also supposed to be one of the best in years – that’ll be fun to watch.

    I’ll bet my guys get back to the top quicker than your guys.

    Ready, set GO

    • redbaronx - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      @1historian – I have no dog in this fight (Lakers v Celts), but I think you’re right. I think the C’s have a better chance at getting back to prominence, but it will also depend on making the right moves. The C’s have a tough call to make with Rondo. Do they trade him? If they keep him the C’s might not get the high lottery pick as they have enough talent with Rondo, Green and parts to win 30-40 in a season already on board. Ainge is almost in a no-win scenario situation, and I hope whatever he decides will work.

    • ludachrisgsx - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      That all looks good on paper. Best of luck to you, because as a Lakers fan I love it when Boston is a good team. It makes for a better rivalry. The 2010 Finals was one of the most fulfilling as a Lakers fan for me – took me back to the 80’s.

      The Lakers have a lot of opportunities come next summer. They rarely rebuild through the draft, they almost always trade for great players or sign free agents. All they have to do is snag one or two good free agents next summer and others will start following. Then some trades will happen a season later to tweak things.

  15. dezglobal - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Melo and Kobes are best friends… Watch them team up.

  16. realfootballfan - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    They should try to bottom out next year. Keep Kobee out for the year similar to Rose and hope the NBA picks them over the Celtics in the lottery for 2014 so they can get the Wiggins kid who’s supposed to be LBJesque next year.

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