What’s Next for the Lakers?

No Dwight Howard. No Chris Paul. Now what?

Despite the general climate among Laker fans and what some pundits are trying to lead people to believe, the Lakers still have a solid core that can compete with any team. They still have the best frontcourt tandem and “The Black Mamba”.

Yeah, Lamar Odom is gone and they still have Derek Fisher as the starting point guard. But they got a workhorse in Josh McRoberts, and Mike Brown still have yet to see what Andrew Goudlocke and Darius Morris can do. Who knows? Maybe Mitch Kupchak did find a couple of diamonds in the rough. Or these rookies too are tired of hearing that the Lakers have no point guard before the world actually sees them in action.

Steve Blake is also running in a more traditional system. Maybe we’ll finally see the guy who once dropped a triple-double on the Lakers. Metta World Peace is now coming off the bench and seems to be embracing his new role. Perhaps, a change of perspective will do him good.

And who ever said the Lakers are done dealing? Last I heard, Howard still hasn’t taken his trade demands off the table. I’m sure seeing the reception his buddy CP3 got when he arrived at his introduction press conference yesterday made him want to come to the Lakers even more. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After what Laker fans experienced this past week, there’s now a cautious approach to everything related to Howard.

With the $8.9 (Dallas) and $5.4 trade exemptions still at their disposal, not to mention the future 1st-round pick they got for Odom, the Lakers have the flexibility to acquire at least 2 more key role players or even a starting point guard via trade or through free agency. Granted there’s not much to be excited about the free agent market, there are some interesting players that could fit the holes in the roster.

Free Agents

Arron Afflalo (Restricted – Denver): Out of all the possible role players the Lakers can get, there’s none more suitable than Afflalo. This guy never complains and works his butt off every minute he’s on the floor. Defense is really his game, but he’ll make you look foolish if you leave him by himself behind the arc. However, it’s hard to believe that the Nuggets would be so open in helping out the Lakers given their history together, especially when J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler are still stuck in China. Then again, Denver just got Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to surround the newly re-signed Nenê. So they may not match the offer sheet the Lakers give them.

DeShawn Stevenson (Unrestricted): A key piece to Dallas’ championship run, Stevenson is a tenacious defender who can shoot as well. He may be outspoken but he’s one of the league’s most effective role player. The Lakers should consider if the price is right.

Rodney Stuckey (Unrestricted): Stuckey may not have a definitive specialty but he’s serviceable at the point or at the 2. But he isn’t the lightest of foot nor one of the more athletic bodies. He also thinks his game is better than it really is at times on the floor. Like Stevenson, negotiate with caution.

Willie Green (Unrestricted): Not a good defender by any sort, Green’s appeal rests entirely on the offensive end. He’s not very quick or anywhere near a Shannon Brown athletic-type, but he can get to the rack and shoot pretty well. Definitely not a bad option behind Bryant.

Gilbert Arenas (Amnesty Waiver): Not much, if any, of the old “Hibachi” Agent Zero is left in Arenas. He did promised to be a better defender this season but that all depends upon how much those rickety knees would allow him. It’s possible that by having the Lakers take a chance on him that he’ll at least make an honest effort in whatever Brown wants him to do. Then again, Arenas isn’t very effective when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands all the time.

Mikael Pietrus (Unrestricted): Another defensive-minded veteran who can hit an open trey from time to time. Pietrus may have fallen off from his days with the Warriors and, to some degree, the Magic, but the 8-year swingman could still score in double-digits if given enough playing time. But again, only if the asking price is worth the risk.

Kris Humphries (Unrestricted): The former Mr. Kardashian may have yet to learn a lot about the game of, well you know. But the guy is strong and athletic enough to bolster the thin Laker frontcourt with his rebounding and putbacks. Not a bad pickup if you ask me.

Samuel Dalembert (Unrestricted): The 10-year big man has always been a solid defensive presence in the paint throughout his entire career. Sure, he’s lost some of his ups but he’s still one of the better shot-blockers in the league. The good news is he’s not Theo Ratliff. The bad news is he can be too sensitive when it comes to pointing out his mistakes on the floor. Still, the Lakers can do worse than him.

Via Trade

Ramon Sessions (PG): Sessions finally got his break as a starter with the Cavaliers last season. He posted 14.3 points, 4.1 assists and a remarkable 4.8 rebounds per game. He’s no CP3 by any stretch, but he can defend, take good shots and run a team. Remember, the Cavs got Kyrie Irving in the draft and still has Daniel Gibson as backup.

Word has it that the Lakers are close to signing forward Troy Murphy. The move would be to put another body on the paper-thin Laker frontcourt in time for their first pre-season game on Monday against the Clippers. Other than that, all is quiet on the Lakers front.

At least for now.