Over in Blazerland it is well into the post-season analysis with its plethora of plotting and planning. One of the SuperGuru posters over there, Storyteller, has a drop-dead gorgeous chart listing salaries and their ramifications, team-by-team and player-by-player.
Here's THE LINK.
And here's my conclusion: The Lakers are screwed.
First, let's look at the Free Agents after this season: Lamar Odom (currently making $14.1M), Trevor Ariza ($3.1M), and Shannon Brown ($800K). Three very important guys, yes? Need to sign them all, yes?
Now, let's see where we're at:
This year's total team salary (including those 3 big pieces): $78.2M — over the cap by $19.5M
Next year's total team salary (with none of those guys yet on the books): $77.6M — already well over the cap by $18.8M, even if the cap doesn't go down next year (which it very well might).
To get the three Free Agents back, the Lakers are probably going to need to spend something like this:
Odom — minimum of $10M, likely more.
Ariza — $4M to $6M.
Brown — $2.5 to $4M.
I don't see how Lamar possibly fits in that budget unless Jerry Buss is willing to go deep into Luxury Tax Hell to do it.
Now, let's take a look at some of the guys that are under contract for next season already:
Kobe — $23.0M.
Pau — $16.5M.
Drew — $12.5M.
That's $52M for those three guys alone — and the Lakers are on the hook for a season beyond that at $56.3M for the same trio.
You can make the case: that's fine, no problem. That's the core of the team and bigs are paid well in the NBA. But now let's look at what else is weighing down the team:
Adam Morrison — $5.3M. (For a guy that should be out of the league.)
Fisher — $5M. (For a guy whose prime career years seems to have passed.)
Operaman — $5M. (plus another year, for a backup Shooting Guard that can't shoot).
Luke Walton — $4.8M (and THREE more years, making this de facto 8th or 9th man virtually untradeable).
These are NOT valuable trade assets, nor are they pivotal to the team's future success. They Lakers are essentially STUCK with these four, to the tune of $20.1M.
That's $72.1M right there for those 7 guys.
They're on the hook another $1.95M for Farmar, which is reasonable money.
The only flexibility is making Powell or Mbenga or Sun Yue go away — but those guys are all under $1M a year next year. Wiping them all out doesn't even come close to creating enough room in the budget to bring Lamar back.
Bottom Line: IF the Lakers stretch (and don't have to match any crazy offers), the team should be able to bring back Trevor and Shannon Brown next year... But it is difficult to envision a scenario in which Lamar Odom does not walk. And the Lakers are in no position to be signing a free agent to fill the gap. Get used to the idea of Josh Powell playing very significant minutes next season...
The Lakers' chance for an NBA Championship is NOW.