Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.
1. Has Jeremy Lin done enough to warrant staying with the Lakers beyond this season?
Holmes: No. There have been a handful of games in which Lin has looked like a player worth keeping, but then there have been many others in which it seems as if acquiring him was a mistake. Even on a bad team, he has been wildly inconsistent, and, as coach Byron Scott has said, Lin still has a lot to prove. At the moment, I'm not sure he has done enough to be considered a player the Lakers should consider in their future plans.
Shelburne: No. While he has shown flashes of solid, steady play, he hasn't done enough to warrant a significant financial investment by the Lakers this summer. Frankly, I don't know that he'd even want to stay considering he's not starting and has noticeably had trouble playing alongside Kobe Bryant.
Markazi: I think there's room for a backup point guard such as Lin on this team, but I'm sure he wants to try his hand at being a starter again and going to a team that will give him that opportunity. If he can't find that elsewhere or a better deal, I don't see why the Lakers wouldn't want him back as a reserve.
2. Is Kobe Bryant really considering the idea of retiring before his contract expires?
Holmes: As he said, I'm sure the idea has crossed his mind, but the Lakers fully expect Bryant to play out his contract -- and he knows that. I also have a hard time seeing him walk away from $25 million next season. Even if he's wealthy, he's a smart businessman and won't leave that on the table. Besides, if Bryant truly wanted to hang it up at season's end, I think he'd be playing more games instead of going along with this plan of trying to preserve him for what should be his 20th and final NBA season.
Shelburne: Yes, but not all that seriously right now. It's something I'm sure he has been thinking about for a few years now. But as long as he still feels as if he can go out and have an impact on the game, he's at least going to play out his contract. Not to mention, he definitely won't want to end his career on such a low note.
Markazi: I don't think so. Has the thought crossed his mind? Surely. But he signed a two-year deal and is due to make a league-high $25 million next season. It will also be his 20th season in the league and will also allow him to receive a proper farewell tour. I'm not saying that's why he's coming back, but I think he knows that's important to the Lakers and one of the big reasons they signed him for two years, and playing 20 seasons, all with the Lakers, is also significant. I think he and the team are doing their best to make sure he gets to next season in one piece.
3. Should the Lakers begin their rebuilding process sooner rather than later and trade current players to improve their cap space?
Holmes: There is still time. They'll have enough money to offer a max contract to one free agent this summer, and some high-profile names will be out there (Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo). They're also in decent position to keep their top five-protected pick. Beyond that, they'll be in better shape when Kobe comes off the books in the summer of 2016. Then again, patience isn't something the Lakers are known for.
Shelburne: Yes. The Lakers might feel good about themselves for making good bets on players such as Ed Davis, Tarik Black and Wayne Ellington this offseason. But if they're not prepared to pay a lot more money to keep them this summer, they have to think about trading them for future assets (draft picks or players under contract) they'll be able to keep beyond this season. Finding a diamond in the rough is only good if you can actually keep that diamond after things aren't as rough. Witness Jodie Meeks last season. He had a career season, then left for a rich free-agent contract in Detroit, and the Lakers got nothing in return.
Markazi: If they can get draft picks for players such as Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson, who might be coveted by some contending teams, I think they should do it. Acquiring draft picks and clearing cap room for next season accomplishes two goals with one move.