The LA Lakers are facing life without Kobe Bryant after his retirement next season and they come in with the number two pick in the draft with Karl-Anthony Towns looking like the top target along with Emmanuel Mudiay, D'Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor for the team and that depends on what the Wolves do and this comes as Los Angeles may have the starting point guard of the future after Jordan Clarkson made the All-rookie team.
According to ESPN.com, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said that Kobe Bryant told him that next season will be his last with the team. While Bryant could take his talents elsewhere after next season, he likely will retire after playing with the team next year. Bryant will be 37-years-old and the Lakers are heading into year three of a fairly legit rebuilding process. Bryant could of course change his mind and stay, but right now that is where his head is at.
The Lakers made the most important jump in the NBA draft lottery, as they now have a top three pick after being the number four team in the standings. The team is in at number two and many expect them to take either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns after the Timberwolves pick. According to Chad Ford of ESPN, that is not a foregone conclusion, as the Lakers reportedly like both Emmanuel Mudiay and D'Angelo Russell and could look at taking one of those names instead.
The team has Jordan Clarkson emerging after making the All-rookie team last season and he could push to start at point guard even if the team takes Mudiay. Ford writes that the Lakers could look at adding Okafor or Towns to help recreate what they did with Shaquille O'Neal as the main big man in years past, but neither player is considered to be a guaranteed star.
Mudiay is an intriguing target, as he is young and played internationally last year, but only in 12 games in China due to injury. Workouts will be big for him as well as Towns and Okafor after those two skipped the draft combine.
The Lakers have had a tough run the past couple years, but Mitch Kupchak thinks the team can turn things around quickly with a strong offseason. No matter who the team picks they will be getting a solid prospect in the draft and the Lakers are also expecting to spend big in free agency this summer. The team is projected to have over $25 million in cap space and with Bryant's contract coming off of the books soon, they likely will not be as worried about the cap situation getting out of control over the next couple years.
Bryant has been very supportive of the organization through the past two years while dealing with injuries and he said he understands the realities of rebuilding in the NBA. Bryant is expecting to be back healthy next season and the star comes in after dealing with shoulder and Achilles injuries the past couple seasons. The team may look at trying to replace his star power with someone like Jimmy Butler, but they are more likely going to get players like Rajon Rondo or Greg Monroe.