The Lakers are a dismal 16-32 on the season, but General Manager Mitch Kupchak has a positive outlook on the team’s situation.
“Our future is a bright future. We’re going to be just fine,” said Kupchak on Wednesday to Jared Greenberg and Rick Fox on “SiriusXM NBA Radio.”
“The franchise is going to attract players,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have a good draft pick this year. We’ll get a good player there.”
The projected draft pool could include Kansas players Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum (Australia), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Jabari Parker (Duke), Julius Randle (Kentucky), Aaron Gordon (Arizona), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and Noah Vonleh (Indiana) -- to name a few.
If the Lakers lose on Wednesday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’ll edge closer to the third-worst record in the NBA.
“It is hard to find the positives,” acknowledged Kupchak. “But the big picture is bright and this organization always figures out a way to get players and win games.”
The Lakers are projected to be under the NBA salary cap this summer. That financial flexibility may persist through to 2015 and even 2016 as some of the league’s top players, like LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, become available.
Kupchak and the Lakers have ideas of what they’d like to do, but can’t say with certainty how their plan will unfold.
“There is no plan to secure a player at a certain time, because we don’t know who those players are,” said Kupchak. “We don’t know what the opportunities are going to be for the next two weeks, in terms of the trade deadline. We don’t know who is going to opt in, who is going to opt out, who may or may not be a free agent this summer.”
The Lakers have recently held discussions with the Phoenix Suns on a possible Pau Gasol trade. Gasol is in the final year of his contract.
“I talked to him recently,” said Kupchak. “He understands the business. He understands the situation. It’s clear to me that he loves Los Angeles and he wants to stay in Los Angeles.”
The Lakers are looking for draft considerations, young players and financial relief in a Gasol trade. There’s no guarantee they’ll get any of the above by the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
“On one hand i really feel for the situation [Gasol is] in but on the other hand our guys are very, very highly compensated professionals and this is the business that they chose,” said Kupchak. “Pau gets it, and I respect his professionalism. He’s a great player and regardless of what happens, he’ll go down as one of the great players in Laker history.”
In the meantime, the Lakers have 34 games left to play.
“We are getting a chance to evaluate young players,” said Kupchak. “We thought Kobe [Bryant] would come back and he’d play the full season.”
Bryant did return in December from a torn Achilles’ tendon, but after six games, he was forced back to the sidelines with a knee injury.
“I thought the first six weeks of the season, when we were relatively healthy, we were a lot of fun to watch,” said Kupchak.
The Lakers have lost their last seven and have just three wins in 2014.
Kupchak said he speaks to Bryant “from time to time” about the team’s future.
“It wouldn’t be a daily or weekly basis -- in fact, it probably wouldn’t even be on a monthly basis,” said Kupchak. “Over the last eight or nine years he has really gotten to a point where he trusts the organization.”
It’s unclear how quickly the Lakers will be able to rebuild.
“In this business all you can do is set your organization up so that you have options and flexibility, and we do have that going forward,” said Kupchak. “You really can’t sit down and say, ‘Well, we’re going to have this player on July 2,’ because we don’t know who those players are we know who is scheduled to be a free agent.... We can’t talk to them anyway until July 1.”
“There’s a lot of unknowns, but we do know we’re going to have a lot of options going forward,” said Kupchak.
The NBA draft will be held on June 26. The lottery to determine order is scheduled for May 20.