November 7, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) leaves the court as time expires during the second half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Lakers 95-86. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency: Lakers Contingency Plan

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An interesting tidbit about the Los Angeles Lakers emerged this morning from Grantland’s Zach Lowe. If the Lakers fail in their pursuit of top tier free agents LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, they will likely load up on two year deals with high annual salaries to tier two free agents.

Los Angeles Lakers: They, like, literally do not have a team for next season. They have max-level cap room, they’re almost certainly going to strike out on the biggest free agents, and they voluntarily gave the league’s biggest annual salary to a lunatic competitor who is turning 36 and coming off two devastating injuries to important body parts.

Kobe Bryant and rebuilding do not mix well. The Lakers are in perhaps the league’s most desirable market, and they can load up on wacky two-year deals with an eye on being competitive in the years leading to Durant’s free agency.

It’s impossible to overstate how terrified other teams are of a desperate Lakers team with needs at almost every position.

That last sentence from Lowe is the most intriguing to Laker fans. “It is impossible to overstate how terrified other teams are of a desperate Lakers team”. That is a sentence that Laker fans want to see. Is it crazy to think that the Lakers could use their $22M in cap space, which could be as high as $28M with some maneuvering, to build a contender right now without signing James or Anthony?

Let’s say that the Lakers fail on James and Anthony. Well, couldn’t they go out and build a roster for the next two years that consists of Kyle Lowry, Greg Monroe and Trevor Ariza? Or how about Isaiah Thomas, Luol Deng, and re-signing Pau Gasol? Everything, and I mean everything, is available to the Lakers this offseason. The NBA’s Western Conference is a gauntlet; however, the Lakers have the available cap space to become a playoff contender right now, which is exactly what the fans, and Kobe Bryant, expect.

By overpaying quality free agents for short term deals, the Lakers can instantly become a quality franchise once again, appease their fans and Kobe, while building for the 2016 offseason when they can go for broke.

For example, let’s say that the Lakers are able to sign Lowry, Ariza, and Gasol for a combined $20M or so this summer. That would mean the starting lineup for the 2014 Lakers would be Lowry, Bryant, Ariza, Julius Randle and Gasol. That’s at least an interesting team that could compete in the West. Is it a championship contender? No. But it is a competitive team that would be fun as heck to watch.

If the Lakers fail to get the stars, at least they’re using their $100M profit from the 2013-14 season on building this team into a playoff contender for the next couple of seasons. And then…..Kevin Durant? It could happen.

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers Mitch Kupchak

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