Options, flexibility limited if Lakers look to retool

OKLAHOMA CITY — So . . . now what?

After another crash in the Western Conference semifinals, the Los Angeles Lakers don't have many future alternatives after their season-ending 106-90 loss Monday in Game 5 against Oklahoma City.

The only way to drastically change their team is via trades, which require willing partners and, of course, the absence of NBA vetoes.

The Lakers are so far over the luxury tax that their main free-agent tool is the "mini" mid-level exception, which tops out at about $3 million in the first season.

The Lakers have already committed $78.4 million to only seven players next season, including a $16.1 million team option for Andrew Bynum that will be exercised before the June 30 deadline, General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.


Of greatest interest, Pau Gasol has two more years and $38.3 million remaining on his contract. He is the main piece the Lakers tried to move last December in the nixed Chris Paul trade, but what's his value now?

He averaged only 12 points and shot a dismal 44 percent in the West semifinals. Bad numbers for the four-time All-Star. Not worthy of $19 million a year.

Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant, 33, has two years and a weighty $58.3 million left on his contract. Metta World Peace has two years and $15 million remaining. Steve Blake has two years and $8 million left.

Ramon Sessions, 25, holds a player option for $4.55 million next season. A month ago, it made sense for him to decline the option and become a free agent but it's not as clear now after his playoff struggles.

Matt Barnes played well in the regular season but was a nonfactor in the playoffs and isn't expected to return to the Lakers. Devin Ebanks is a restricted free agent with a limited market. The interest in Jordan Hill doesn't project to be very high.

The Lakers hold a team option on Andrew Goudelock for $762,000 next season. Fellow rookie guard Darius Morris signed a one-year deal when he was drafted last June, so he becomes a restricted free agent.

Compounding the Lakers' problems is their lack of draft picks. They hold only the final selection next month, No. 60 out of 60, a second-rounder acquired from Chicago as part of a three-team trade involving Sasha Vujacic in 2010.

The Lakers sent this year's first-round pick (No. 24) to Cleveland as part of the Sessions trade. Their second-round pick (No. 55) went to Dallas as part of the Lamar Odom trade.


The Lakers still have an $8.9 million traded-player exception acquired in the Odom deal that expires in December. Trade exceptions are hard to explain, but the Lakers can obtain a player from another team by trading only a future draft pick if the player makes under $9 million. Basically, they can absorb a headache from another team or a relatively large salary ... if they find a trade partner.

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