Kobe Bryant is one of the league’s greatest players of all-time. He is entering his 19th NBA season this fall and has been to the All-Star Game 16 times in his illustrious career. Tack on five NBA Championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and one regular season MVP and Bryant is a surefire Hall-of-Famer. The past two years have been rough for the 36-year-old though. He has suffered two serious leg injuries including a torn Achilles and a fractured knee. To make matters worse, the Lakers are coming off a season in which they won only 27 games and things don’t look much better this year unless vintage Bryant comes back. With a poor supporting cast and an aging star coming back from serious injuries, the Lakers don’t appear to be building for the future or winning in the present. Bryant is expected to retire in two years and the summer of 2016 has several NBA stars becoming available in free agency. The Lakers are hoping some of those stars can get past the losing ways of recent and head to the attractive destination of Los Angeles.
Last season, Bryant was coming back from a torn Achilles and all signs pointed to him being physically fine. The Lakers were coming off a summer in which Dwight Howard bolted town for the Houston Rockets, but if Bryant was healthy they were expected to be in the playoff hunt. He struggled initially coming back from injury just because he hadn’t played in game action for a while. In his 10th game of the year though, he went down with a fractured knee and the Lakers season went up in flames. Add in injuries to Pau Gasol and Steve Nash and Los Angeles was trotting a team of street free agents on the court. The results weren’t good. This offseason, they resigned Jordan Hill to a two-year deal and drafted University of Kentucky big man Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick. The cupboard is still quite bare though and asking your aging superstar to turn back the clock and win games on his own after the devastating injuries he’s suffered is unrealistic.
Los Angeles has always gotten by on their team history, spotlight and nice weather in southern California. Free agents loved that about the Lakers. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Howard and Pau Gasol have left town during the last two offseasons. Unless Randle becomes a star in the next two years, it’s hard to expect any prominent free agents to come to town because the Lakers aren’t an attractive winning destination.
Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Nicolas Batum, Brook Lopez and Mike Conley are among the free agents that will hit the market in the offseason of 2016. Fellow Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and Kevin Love could even hit the market if they opt out of their contracts. The summer of 2016 is gearing up to be one of the best in recent years and the Lakers will have plenty of cap room. However, without a plan for the future in place and the ability to win immediately, they may have to settle for the leftover free agents.