The Los Angeles Lakers enter with offseason with plenty of problems and not many ways of fixing them. The team needs help in a number of key areas like defense, athleticism and perimeter shooting. Unfortunately, they only have one draft pick, a second-round selection at No. 48 overall, to help alleviate those issues.
For the second straight offseason, the Lakers will enter the draft with more questions than answers. Among those are whether or not Kobe Bryant will return to full strength by the start of the regular season, Dwight Howard's decision in free agency to stay or play elsewhere and numerous identity issues with head coach Mike D'Antoni.
The Lakers will have to make their lone selection in the 2013 NBA Draft count. Their only option to participate in the first round would be a pre-draft trade since they used the 2013 pick to acquire Steve Nash. Their most moveable asset at this point is big man Pau Gasol, who is constantly at the center of trade rumors.
Due to Gasol's own health issues and high salary, it's unlikely that a team will be willing to pay what the Lakers would seek in a trade. Also, the Spaniard's contract will expire at the end of the 2013-14 season, and finding other expiring deals would be a significant challenge.
The following players are under contract for the 2013-14 season:
Shooting guards: Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks
Power forwards: Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison (unrestricted free agent)
Centers: Dwight Howard (unrestricted free agent), Jordan Hill
All of the Lakers' biggest salaries (Bryant's $30 million, Gasol's $19 million and World Peace's $7.7 million) are slated to come off the books in 2014, giving the team a chance to land one of many notable free agents.
Dwight Howard is the free agent to watch on the roster, but with the signing period set to begin July 1, the Lakers will operate with the assumption that he will re-sign with them and return to be the heir apparent to Bryant. With that in mind, the frontcourt should still be considered an area of strength, while the backcourt needs some attention.
With an aging, injury-riddled backcourt, Metta World Peace a likely amnesty candidate and bench players like Jodie Meeks struggling to find consistency on both ends of the floor, perimeter shooting and backcourt athleticism have to be the Lakers' greatest areas of need prior to the draft.
Duhon, Nash and Blake are all north of 30 years old, and all three struggle to keep the elite guards in the Western Conference at bay on the defensive end. This is the most likely reason that mock drafts have tied the Lakers to point guard Isaiah Canaan out of Murray State throughout the process.
Myck Kabongo (scouting report), a point guard out of Texas, is another player who makes sense at No. 48. He's an athletic guard with solid size and long wingspan that could make an impact as a reserve. If he slips, the Lakers would do well to snatch him up.