Are the Los Angeles Lakers seriously down for the count? Don't bet on it (39694)

For two straight years, Kobe Bryant and company have been bounced from the playoffs in the second round. The holes on the roster that plagued the Lakers during their sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 became huge craters in last week’s 4-1 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It got so frustrating for the Lakers that, at one point, Bryant took exception to a reporter’s question regarding whether the Lakers could guard Oklahoma City’s quicker players. The star guard ended his interview abruptly after the question.

Whether or not Bryant wants to admit it, the Lakers are slow and old, especially on the perimeter. The Lakers couldn’t stick with the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook or James Harden and had issues dealing with Dallas’ Jason Terry and J.J. Barea last year. At least one Lakers executive admitted the team won’t be the same next season. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told, “There will be some change.”

Lakers fans can believe what the man says, because nearly half of the roster can become free agents. Pau Gasol is owed $38 million over the next two seasons, but he’s still an all-star talent good enough to command value in any trade. Andrew Bynum, who could command a king’s ransom in a deal, has a team option worth $16 million for next year that the Lakers will certainly pick up, while Metta World Peace is on the books for $15 million over the next two seasons.

There is also the $8.9 million trade exception the Lakers got from Dallas in the Lamar Odom deal, which means the team can add a player up to that amount without having to move anyone off the roster. The Lakers also have the amnesty clause to use if they so desire.

In plain English, the Lakers have too many resources and too much moveable quality talent on their roster not to be able to make big moves in the offseason. We could see a new and improved Lakers team as soon as next season.

The Nets’ Deron Williams, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala, Atlanta’s Josh Smith and several other notable players have been rumored to be on the Lakers’ radar. If Kupchak makes the right moves, we’ll be back to the same old Lakers soon enough.