As you read through this article I have one question I want you to keep in mind: Does this make the Los Angeles Lakers a title contender for the next 5 plus years.
The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. The Thunder looked more athletic, youthful and quick. The young core of the Thunder out shined the aging Lakers and opened up some weaknesses the Lakers have had all year long. As I've watched the NBA playoffs I've been making a list of things that are wrong with a handful of teams including the Celtics, Heat, Spurs, Mavericks, Bulls, Magic and of course my Lakers. For this article I will run through a handful of options the Lakers will have to choose from this off season (free agent signings, trades and other changes). I'm not predicting any of these to come true but I wouldn't be shocked to see the team address some of their major issues this off season.
Here is, what I see as, the Lakers weaknesses:
1. Weak point guard
2. Horrible bench
3. Aging stars
4. Weak swing guys
This is a fantasy sports website so as I run through the list of options the Lakers have this off season, I will try to give the fantasy aspect of it all.
Trade for Dwight Howard
This sounds more of a difficult task to accomplish now that the Orlando Magic have fired head coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith. It's clear that Magic management will do whatever it takes to keep Howard in the Magic blue. If that means cleaning house, it would appear that Magic ownership will do that as well. For the purpose of this article let's say that Howard is a movable piece for Orlando this off season.
- Lakers trade Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard straight up.
I have always been an Andrew Bynum supporter but if this trade goes through it would benefit both teams tremendously. First off, the Magic would get a franchise center in return and lose the headache that is Dwight in Orlando. Next, the Lakers would receive the defensive-minded big man that wouldn't need Gasol to play as hard on the defensive side of the ball. If Gasol can focus more on his offense, he should maintain the 2nd best power forward in fantasy basketball next year. If things stay the same, he is borderline top 3 (behind Love, M. Gasol and right in front of Millsap) entering next year. Bynum in Orlando and Howard in Los Angeles, if healthy, are both top 3 centers (Howard-Back, Bynum- Knees).
Trade/Sign for a Point Guard
Once the Lakers traded for Ramon Sessions earlier this year everyone thought they had fixed their point guard issues. That has not been the case this postseason. Sessions, in the playoffs, is averaging close to 10 points, 4 assists and is shooting under 40% from the field and under 20% from behind the arc. Ramon, in my eyes, is a good player but he is not a championship point guard. I don't think they need to bring in a super star like Deron Williams or Steve Nash, but they need to upgrade. Here is a list of players that should come fairly cheap this off season:
Jose Calderon TOR 8.8 assists per game in 2012- 1 year left on current contract
Andre Miller DEN 6.7 assists per game in 2012- Free agent
Jameer Nelson ORL 5.7 assists per game in 2012- 1 year left on current contract
All of these floor generals were in the top 15 in assists per game last season. Ramon Sessions was tied for 16th (5.5 APG). If any of these guys make the Lakers squad next year they will take an immediate jump into the top 15 fantasy point guard discussion. I would say that Jameer Nelson makes a lot of since if the team does trade for Dwight. It has been well documented that Jameer Nelson (age 30) and Dwight Howard (age 26) are close friends and the chemistry those two can bring to the Lakers will make them a legit contender for years to come.
Bye Bye Gasol
The Lakers have been teasing Pau Gasol all season long with possible trades. Prior to the season he was shipped to Houston in a deal that was vetoed by NBA commissioner David Stern. I mentioned earlier if Howard comes to L.A. Gasol's fantasy value will increase but if Howard isn't an option then the 7 foot Spaniard should be dealt. Pau Gasol, who will turn 32 years old on July 6th, still has a handful of productive years ahead of him.
Best options for Pau Gasol's fantasy value in 2013:
1. Lakers, if they return the same roster. He was the 2nd best Power Forward and 2nd best Center in 2012.
2. Orlando, maybe he gets involved in a Dwight Howard deal.
3. Brooklyn, Deron Williams would be the best point guard Gasol has ever worked with.
4. Anywhere else he would lose value
In return for dealing Gasol the Lakers must target a forward. If Gasol is dealt to Orlando than sharp shooter Ryan Anderson would make a lot of sense. If Gasol lands in Brooklyn, I think Kris Humphries or Gerald Wallace would fit the Lakers scheme. If either of those two, Wallace or Humphries, come to L.A. it would increase their fantasy value slightly but keep in mind they would fill in as the 3rd scoring option behind Kobe and Bynum (or Howard). If they trade Gasol they have to keep Bynum on the team. You can't lose two 7 footers and expect to compete.
Bring in a wing
The Lakers can not rely on Metta World Peace to be a scoring option. This past season he averaged over 7 shots per game and was shooting over 10 in the post season. This takes away from his overall value as a defensive player. A key part of building a championship roster is getting the best value out of your players, World Peace is a defender not a shooter. For instance, on the early 90's Bulls teams led by Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, they had role players buy in to their specific roles. Horace Grant was a rebounding machine, he wasn't asked to score 20 plus points a game. Grant bought into his role and the team had success. Same goes for B.J. Armstrong being a sharpshooter (42.5% career from downtown). Armstrong wasn't asked to be the leading scorer but to just hit 3's when asked.
It takes a star to make a team relevant but a team around the star to build a championship contender. The Lakers are in that situation right now. Kobe will keep you relevant but you can't win a title with this current roster.
If the Lakers are going to win they must bring in a wing player to come off the bench or play the 3 spot depending if coach Mike Brown would choose to sit World Peace or if the team trades one of their 7 footers. I feel that Metta should stick between 5-7 shot attempts per game and focus on guarding the opposing teams best player. That being said, some forwards that I think will "catch the eye" of Laker management will be:
Nicolas Batum POR 13.9 PPG - 4.6 RPG - 45.1% FG - 39.1% 3PFG
Luis Scola HOU 15.5 PPG - 6.5 RPG - 49.1% FG
Antawn Jamison CLE 17.2 PPG - 6.3 RPG - 40.3% FG - 34.1% 3PFG
Without a doubt all of these players would take a bit of a fantasy hit having to share the ball with Kobe and whoever the low post presence will be next year (Bynum, Gasol, both or Howard). Bringing in a wing is a great basketball move but the player they bring in will most likely lose some fantasy value.
Fix the bench
Before looking forward, let's take a look back at some of the bench players the Lakers have let go over the past few seasons: Shannon Brown (Phoenix), Jordan Farmar (Brooklyn), Ronny Turiaf (Golden State, New York, Washington and now Miami), Vladimir Radmanovic (Atlanta) Lamar Odom (Mavericks) and Luke Walton (Cleveland) just to name a few. None of these guys were asked to be superstars, just play a role off the bench. When they were with the Lakers they all bought in and now have at least one championship ring to show for it.
The only current bench players I feel confident in are Steve Blake and, well, that's about it. I think that the team should look to bring in some back up big men to replace Josh McRoberts, Devin Ebanks and a guard to replace Andrew Goudelock. Possible replacements are forward Reggie Evans (Clippers), guard Jannero Pargo (Hawks), guard Brandon Rush (Warriors), and forward Richard Jefferson (Warriors). I also think Lamar Odom should come back but pride is always a factor in returning to a team that let you go for near nothing. I think Jordan Hill is a decent back up at center.
These bench players wouldn't offer a lot of fantasy value next year; however, if any of the starters go down there is great value with being labeled as a Laker starter. Keep in mind Bynum has had health issues in the past, Kobe will be 34 in August and you never know what Metta will get suspended for next season.
Final Note: If all else fails try to bring back Phil Jackson. That should be self explanatory.
If you can think of anyone else that could help turn around the Lakers feel free to hit me on twitter @Awies28