Kobe Bryant 3 300x138 Could the Lakers part ways with Kobe Bryant in 2013?At some point in the near future the Los Angeles Lakers are going to have to start thinking about the next chapter; life after Kobe Bryant.  But could it happen prior to the next NBA season?

Without a doubt Bryant is the current face of the franchise and despite being in his 16th NBA season he’s still putting up incredible numbers.  Bryant is averaging 28.7 points per game, and is on pace for his best scoring average in the last five seasons.  On the flip side he is also having the third worst shooting season of his illustrious career with a .430 field goal percentage.  In layman terms, Kobe Bryant is scoring more but taking more shots to do so.  That sounds more like a Stephon Marbury type of player rather than the cornerstone of an NBA championship caliber team and because of it, the Lakers should look to move Kobe Bryant sooner rather than later.

Think about it.  Bryant is the biggest commodity the team has.  He’s a proven winner and scorer and has unrivaled determination.  The problem is that Bryant alone will not translate in to championships.  So the question becomes, why keep him?

Lakers fans would argue to keep him and put pieces around him to win.  I would argue that the pieces are there and that he just doesn’t know how to use them.

In a recent article on FOX Sports.com  Jason Whitlock stated, “You put Bynum and Gasol around LeBron James and everyone in the league would expect that team to win a championship. Kobe wants the roster blown up. He’s still upset David Stern stopped the Lakers from acquiring Chris Paul.

Whitlock went on to say “You give Wade the same rosters Kobe has played with throughout his Los Angeles career, and I guarantee you the Heat win the same number of titles — if not more.”

That’s a statement that’s difficult to argue against.  Imagine players like Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, or LeBron James paired on a team with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.  Not only would the aforementioned players continue their successes, but both Gasol and Bynum would thrive as each of would receive the ball in optimal scoring position more often than not.

The bottom line is that no matter how much Kobe scores he rarely makes those around him better.  In a day and age in sports where loyalty has been trumped by what have you done for me lately the Lakers would be smart and part ways with Bryant now.  Otherwise the next three or four season will be more shots jacked up with a lot of points scored and zero titles. Why not bring in players like a Deron Williams next season via free agency along with complimentary pieces that could be acquired via a trade involving Bryant.

Bryant’s current contract with the Lakers takes him through the 2013-14 NBA season.  Bryant does have a no trade clause but he does have a trade kicker that could be worth an additional 15% on the remaining money owed in his current contract.  This makes the idea of  trading Kobe Bryant a possibility.

I know Laker fans, speaking aloud about Los Angeles trading No. 24 is considered blasphemy in the Purple and Gold Nation.  But if you think about it, it makes sense.  Eventually Kobe will leave the Lakers via voluntary retirement or a career ending injury and when that happens the Lakers will be left with nothing except a bunch of cap space.  Why not make that transition seamless and get something for him now while he still has value?  Some of the greatest players of all time played for multiple teams; Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James.  Is Kobe Bryant next?

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

 Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth