Heading into the 2015-16 NBA season, one of the biggest storylines will surround Kobe Bryant and if he will play beyond his current contract. After three consecutive season-ending injuries, Kobe will turn 37 years old in August and will enter his 20th year for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since the season ended, general manager Mitch Kupchak has been asked about Kobe’s future. In a recent interview with The Chris Mannix Show, Kupchak was asked about how the five-time champion’s future factors in with the rebuilding process:
To some degree. We feel we want to make significant progress from this year to next year. And if we can do that and not mortgage the future—in other words, with a player who is in free agency that’s a veteran—then yeah. It’s a factor because we do want and we need in this city to show progress. And we’ve not made the playoffs for two years running, I suppose you can do it a third year, but our fans are impatient, and they’re used to a good product, and that’s not what we want to do. And we know Kobe is not as happy when the town around him is not enough to win. But, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t do something that puts us in the middle of the pack for the next six or seven years. Because all that does is get you the eighth seed in the playoffs and a draft pick that’s not very good.
With Kobe in the final stages of his career, building a team around him is not a recipe for long-term success. While another playoff run with the five-time champion would be ideal, the Lakers simply cannot mortgage their future by overspending on veterans to achieve that particular goal next season.
With one week before the NBA Draft, the Lakers will evaluate all of their options for the second overall pick. Although the team will likely have to decide between Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, Kupchak shared that they have received phone calls and trading the pick remains a possibility.[divide]