In crafting a contract extension for legend Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers wanted to reward Bryant while also preserving max-level space under the salary cap next summer. The two-year, $48.5 million deal the two sides struck Monday keeps Bryant as the league's highest-paid player but also ensures the Lakers will likely have at least $20 million in cap space and potentially more if they waive Steve Nash using the "stretch" provision of the new CBA, saving an additional $5.9 million.
So the Lakers can sign a max free agent if they convince one of the top players available to join Bryant in L.A. Ideally, this second star would complement Bryant now and ultimately supplant him -- or lure an even bigger star using the space freed up when Bryant eventually retires. As teams like the Dallas Mavericks have found out, there are no guarantees in free agency. But here are the players Lakers fans can spend the rest of this season dreaming about.