Best 2015 Free-Agent Stars for LA Lakers to Transition from Kobe Bryant Era

Kobe Bryant isn't going to be a part of the Los Angeles Lakers forever. 

Lately, he's seemed particularly mortal. After injuring his right shoulder on a dunk and playing out the rest of a Jan. 21 contest against the New Orleans Pelicans while predominately using his left hand, there's no guarantee he's going to stay healthy for the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign.

In fact, there's no telling when he'll return at all, since the Lakers announced that he had a torn rotator cuff on Thursday afternoon via an official press release (h/t Mike Trudell). 

All of a sudden, retirement seems like a distinct possibility at the end of the season, even though Bryant has one more year left on his enormous contract. As he told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times four days before that shoulder injury, "I'd be lying if I said that it [retiring after this campaign] hasn't crossed my mind. Right now I doubt it…but anything's possible." 

More so than ever before, the Lakers have to think about the future—a future that isn't going to include the legendary shooting guard who's as much of a lock for the Hall of Fame as anyone has been. 

Nick Young, for example, has already started the recruiting pitches to players who will soon be marquee free agents. 

"I told Goran Dragic on the court, 'You might be my teammate next year.'" the swaggerific 2-guard explained to the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina. "I'll talk to Marc [Gasol]. Me and him are cool. Kevin Love, I’ll talk to him."

But those are only three of the five prominent free agents the Lakers should be preparing official pitches for. They have to find someone who can not only play with Bryant if he returns to the roster next season, but can also lead the charge during the first year of the post-Mamba era of Lakers basketball, whenever that may begin. 

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