Will the Los Angeles Lakers Be Better Than Expected Next Season?

Looking at the Los Angeles Lakers' offseason, their intentions are clear: preserve money, grind out 2014-15 and entrust future standing to free agency.

Figuring out what such cap conservation means for 2014-15 itself is less explicit.

The lines between who they are and who they're trying to be are blurred—obscured by dual ambitions that are merging out of necessity and deliberate manipulation rather than natural preference.

Kobe Bryant stands on one side of the fence, his win-now edict still reverberating throughout Staples Center. The Lakers are at a different point in their development, trying to plan for a future that spans longer than two years and therefore longer than Bryant's shelf life.

Somehow, the Lakers have managed to appease Bryant today without conceding tomorrow's wiggle room. And yet their ability to juggle both has offered minimal clarity.

Are they supposed to be bad? Mediocre? Good? Are they tanking?

Are we underselling their ceiling, mocking and devaluing deft patchwork that reflects more than consciously slipshod thinking?

Will the Lakers, against initial judgment, be better than expected next season?


Scoping Out the Roster

For all we don't know about the Lakers, we know they're not tanking. Their offseason is not what tanking looks like—especially considering how hard they would have to tank.

In order to increase the value of their first-round draft pick, they have to keep it; to keep it, they need to land a top-five selection, otherwise it's sent to the Phoenix Suns. 

Finishing with the second-worst or absolute worst record in the NBA is the only way they ensure its retention. If they do any better, they're at the mercy of lottery odds, which weren't so kind to them this past year, when they wound up dropping one spot in the order. 

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