Right now, these Lakers have three, and only three, inherent advantages.
OK, so they have two
Second, the Lakers have a six-decade history of luring available basketball stars (ranging from all-timers like Wilt, Kareem and Shaq to in-demand-at-the-time free agents like Sam Perkins, Steve Nash and Mitch Kupchak) and keeping their stars nearly 100 percent of the time, with two notable exceptions: a celibate A.C. Green and a decidedly uncelibate Dwight Howard. Famous basketball players gravitate to the Lakers because of their storied history, and because Los Angeles remains the easiest American city for any wealthy celebrity to live in.
See, people rarely bother celebrities in Los Angeles.
As recently as three years ago, had you told any fan of the other 29 teams, "In 2014, the Lakers will have $50 million in cap space during a loaded summer for free agents," their reaction would have been, "We're all screwed."
Making matters worse, the Lakers lost their L.A. basketball monopoly. Lately, the lowly Clippers — a team
So if we ever needed a "Save the Lakers" plan, it's right now. Here's how Wolf Pope Simmons would hypothetically save the Lakers in 10 hypothetical steps.
1. Don't be afraid to suck all kinds of suck for one season.
Two facts about the 2014 draft. First, if you were ranking the Can't-Miss NBA Prospects of the 21st Century, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins would rank behind LeBron, but would probably land right on that second tier with Durant, Oden and Carmelo.
Second, it's the rare NBA draft that's deep AND top-heavy. On Tuesday's B.S. Report, ESPN draft guru and former The O.C. star Chad Ford pointed out that, in 2013, he broke the draft down by tiers — with Tier 1 being "potential franchise players," Tier 2 being "potential All-Stars," Tier 3 being "potential starters," and so on — and there wasn't a single 2013 draft prospect in Tier 1 or Tier 2. In 2014? Right now, we have eight guys in those top two tiers, and that's without factoring in the possibility of one or two more breakout stars. There's also a chance that Kentucky power forward Julius Randle might turn "Wiggins vs. Randle" into a "Durant vs. Oden"–type debate, and that Duke's Jabari Parker might be looming as a Carmelo-like sleeper.
If there was ever a season for hopeless or semi-hopeless NBA teams to throw away like a half-eaten banana, it's this one. Going 42-40 makes no sense. Why not take your lumps, Jimmy? Your fan base is more sophisticated than anyone realizes.
2. Clear every dollar off your 2014-15 cap. Get to zero, or close.
The goal: replicating what Pat Riley achieved four seasons ago, when he talked Dwyane Wade into playing with expiring contracts just so Miami could become a free-agent player in the summer of 2010 (with South Beach as the carrot).
Whether that was a calculated risk or a nefarious plan hatched during the summer of 2008 — you know, when LeBron, Wade and Bosh played on Team USA and befriended team ball boy Nick Arison (son of Miami owner Micky Arison),
On paper, the 2013-14 Lakers could take the 2009-10 Heat's game plan to another level by jettisoning every contract while also landing a top-five lottery pick. But they have to worsen this year's roster. Which means ...