Can LA Lakers Still Build a Real Title Contender Around Kobe Bryant?

Seventeen years later, it's still all about Kobe Bryant.

There will come a time when the Los Angeles Lakers have to move on. When Kobe isn't at the forefront of their future plans. Just not now, or even soon.

With the Black Mamba set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan writes that Kobe's future with the team is up in the air. And it is. 

Not only must the Lakers hope Kobe is fit to play at a high level after rehabbing a torn Achilles, they must find a way to build a championship-caliber roster around him moving forward.

Much like Kobe's attempt to regain last season's swagger, the task at hand is a difficult one for these always-ambitious Lakers.


Making the Necessary Assumptions

In an ideal world, Kobe would return from his Achilles injury to pick up right where he left off. He would torch opposing defenses for 27.3 points and six assists per game, and the Lakers would clinch their ninth straight playoff appearance. 

But Robin Thicke still wears skin-tight pants; therefore we don't live in an ideal world. No matter what route the Lakers choose or are forced to explore, they will do so with the fact that Kobe is on the decline.

Players on the wrong side of 35 don't experience career renaissances. Not even the Black Mamba. Los Angeles placed so much stock in Dwight Howard because it sensed the end was near. The Lakers wanted to plan for the future without doing so at Kobe's expense. And that hasn't changed.

Kobe's name will define the Lakers as long as he's playing, but his actual play won't. The Lakers can't afford to let it. Reinforcements must be brought in; hence the obsession with next summer.

Therefore, we must assume that the Lakers will attempt to construct a contender around Kobe—in spite of Kobe.

I say ...

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