I'm a Dwight fan, and I hope he stays.
However, I don't think it will be Armageddon if he leaves, in fact, it may actually be helpful long term.
If he does leave, this would be my plan:
1. Getting a new coach needs to happen regardless. Also, get Phil into the organization somehow officially.
2. Talk to Kobe and Pau. Bring them into the discussion. I would tell them that the plan is get them additional rings. That the franchise still thinks they can play a major role in helping this team get back on top, but that obviously, we need them to work with us once their deals expire. Both of them know they won't see anywhere near the money they have been making. I think they would both like to retire Lakers, but I also think they both have something left in the tank. They need to used correctly, and they need their loads lightened a bit, ergo my plan.
Nash is the only player under contract, and possibly add Clark to that assuming he is resigned in 2013, which I would advise.
I would resign Kobe and Pau to one year deals. They would need to be on board and understand the teams plan in order to accept this (see above).
I'd go about 16 for Kobe and 10 for Pau (this is of course assuming they both want to keep playing, both want to stay Lakers, and both are still capable players). With Kobe, Pau, Nash and Clark, we'd be at 40 mil in salary. Assuming a 62 mil cap, this gives us 22 mil in space. My FA signings may disappoint some. I don't think Bron is realistic (though I would certainly make him a max offer). I think what is realistic are some solid role players.
My first choice would have been Andre Iguodala. I think he'd be a perfect compliment to Kobe on the perimeter. Unfortunately, it looks like he is opting out this year and will not be a FA next season. My 2nd choice would be Luol Deng or Danny Granger. I think Deng will get something along the lines of 4 years 40. Granger less. I think either would work well with kobe on the perimeter. Deng plays D, passes well and is comfortable in a support role. He is also unlikely to get a contract like his last. With Butler emerging in Chicago, I believe Deng is not in their long term plans. I would also sign Trevor Ariza. I know it sounds crazy to sign 2 SF's but here is my reasoning. We need to get Kobe down to about 30 MPG in order to preserve him. Ariza will be very affordable. He will not get another MLE deal like his last. I'm thinking 4 years 20 for Trev. Kobe, Deng and Ariza would be a lethal combination. Remember how good our 3 big rotation of Gasol, Bynum and Odom was? This would be a similar situation. It would be like having 3 starters manning 2 positions, and keep constant pressure on opponents. It would also allow Kobe's minutes to be managed properly. Deng starting at 8 and Ariza at 4 would leave us about 10 mil in cap space.
Up front, we'd have Gasol and Clark. I would ideally like a 3 big rotation like we had in 07-10. Pau would be my Pau. Clark my Lamar. We'd need a rim protector. We all used to say that if only Bynum would play like Tyson Chandler (focus on D) we'd be unbeatable. So I'd go after a rim protector. Emeka Okafor sucks on offense, but he is a stellar defender, shotblocker and rebounder. Again, I'm looking for a rotation big who could do a specific job, and I think Okafor could fill that role. He'd also fit financially and personnel wise into my 2015 plan. Something like 4 years 30 mil. Get a nice back up PG (also on a one year deal, maybe Hinrich?) and we'd have a good team, maybe not the best, but one that I believe could compete. My 8 man rotation:
Ariza would back up both the 2 and the 3.
Clark (like Odom used to) would also back up 2 positions (as Pau would slide over to the 5, just like he used to when Odom would come in).
Most importantly, cap flexibility would be preserved for 2015, when the real FA prizes are available.
The only players under contract would be my FA signings from 2014, Deng, Ariza and Okafor, totaling about 20 mil. With an cap in the 65 range, that leaves us 45 in cap space.
There are 2 young superstars who will be FA (hopefully). I believe both would come to the Lakers.
First is KLove. He has an ETO and I think will leave Minny. He is also a smart guy who would understand the privilege of playing here. His first year on a max would be about 17.
Next is Rajon Rondo. I don't think he'll be happy with the C's in rebuild mode. Also, I don't think a competitor like him would sign just anywhere. He wants to win and he understands what the Lakers represent. His first year on a max would be about 15.
That leaves us about 13 mil in space. Now I resign Kobe for about 10. I also get someone to back up Rondo, maybe even Nash if he still wants to play (As a Laker fan I appreciate that the guy came here and I would love for him to end his career with a chip) If he would take 3 to back up an mentor Rondo great. If not , easy to find a solid back up PG.
This would max out our cap space, and leave Pau in the cold. One thing, we still have the full MLE, which I would offer Pau.
Now look at the team:
That is a championship caliber team. Emerging superstars like Love and Rondo (the future), HOF Lakers like Kobe, Pau and Nash (still productive but in more limited ways), and solid role players like Deng, Okafor and Ariza, all signed to reasonable contracts that would leave us well under the tax apron. And set up for future success, as Kobe Pau and Nash would leave money available to replace them when they do retire as Laker legends, with young superstars like Love and Rondo to continue the Laker championship tradition.
Kobe, Pau and Nash would be important, but the load would be spread out, and the old guys minutes would be limited. Imagine a starting 5 of:
Now imagine we have our 3 all stars resting on the bench (Kobe, Rondo and Love). Our 2nd unit would be:
That team would be incredible.