Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and How LA Can Compete Next Season

Are the whispers of the Lakers' demise premature? Considering they were the consensus "Team to Beat" for the majority of the season, I believe so. After all, every team will have a rough four-game stretch here or there. We just aren't used to it from the defending champs.

Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest are all under contract for next season, so the core group that won 57 games this year could be mostly intact come October. But with a lockout looming and a four-game sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks fresh on their minds, Lakers fans can be excused for not feeling content running through the motions next season.

Bottom line, there will be a major shakeup in Laker-land before their next NBA game. A new coach will be manning the reigns, and the team will need to add young pieces if they want to improve on their performance this season.

Perhaps the team will return refreshed from their earliest playoff exit in half a decade; more likely, the team will undergo an overhaul before opening night of the 2011-12 season.

So what obstacles do the Lakers have in order to bounce back next season? Some are minor speed bumps that can be addressed through the draft and free agency. Others are potential road blocks that could derail the franchise's championship expectations for years to come.

Starting from the assumption that there will be basketball in the fall, what options does the team have in "rebuilding" its roster? Here are some scenarios that could quickly come to the fore.

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