LA Lakers: Sorry, Fans, but These Lakers Are Not NBA Title Contenders

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJanuary 9, 2012

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Kobe Bryant #24 talks to Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Power Balance Pavilion on December 26, 2011 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When it comes to NBA title contenders, I would take the duo of Andrew Bynum over the frontcourts of Miami, Chicago, Miami or Portland. But I would also take the backcourts of all those teams over the Lakers as well.

Two weeks may not be enough time pick a true favorite for the 2012 NBA championship, but in a 66-game season it might provide sufficient evidence to eliminate any pretenders.

And unfortunately, the Los Angeles Lakers look like they belong in the latter category with every game they play.

As I began writing this article on Friday, Jan. 6, the Lakers were locked in an intense battle with the Golden State Warriors that was much closer than it had any right to be.

The Warriors were minus Stephen Curry, but it really doesn't matter because the Lakers seem incapable of defending any opposing guard that takes the court.

The Lakers have been able to mask their inferior backcourt play with the dominance of their post players in the past, but that was before Lamar Odom was traded.

Odom's ball-handling ability and distribution skills created a dynamic that few other teams had an answer for, and while Bynum and Gasol are arguably the NBA's top post tandem, neither player can defend the perimeter.

And neither can Derek Fisher, Steve Blake or Kobe Bryant.

I'm guessing Lakers coach Mike Brown is finding it more difficult to justify minutes for Fisher, and even though Blake's offensive game has been rejuvenated he is still terrible defensively.

Bryant's wrist has received plenty of attention lately, but the focus on his ability to score points has overshadowed his inability to prevent them.

Kobe's will and conditioning regimen have kept him in the conversation as one of the NBA's top perimeter defenders, but I don't need to see Monta Ellis continuously blowing by Bryant off the dribble to realize those days are gone.

Bryant still has the strength, length and range to be a great defensive player, but in a league that is becoming defined by dribble penetration, speed—or the lack thereof—literally kills.

And the Lakers have been victims since their Christmas Day loss to the Bulls.

In fact, each of the team's four losses this season could arguably be blamed on inferior backcourt play, as the Lakers have taken turns, making players like Marcus Thornton, Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton and now Klay Thompson look like bona fide NBA stars.

Not that any of the players mentioned above are not talented, but I'm not sure they're as good as the Lakers made each one of them look.

Unfortunately, the Lakers' future schedule does include other point guards like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, who are every bit as good as advertised, and all have posed problems for the Lakers in the past.

Maybe the Lakers can beat the Clippers, Thunder, Trial Blazers, Spurs and Mavericks on any given night, but can they defeat any of those teams in a seven-game series with their current roster?

Before last postseason's four-game demolition at the hands of the eventual world champion Mavericks I would have at least given the Lakers a chance, but now I'm not so sure.

Bynum and Gasol were clearly winded against Golden State, and the Lakers once again had to rely on a 39-point outburst by Bryant to secure a victory.

The Lakers will not challenge for any titles with performances like that, but all hope for grand success in 2012 is not lost.

The Lakers still have time to acquire a decent point guard for the regular season's final sprint, and that need must be addressed regardless of any other plans management may have.

Orlando center Dwight Howard has been the subject of numerous trade rumors concerning the Lakers, and while it would be great to add a player like Howard to the roster, his presence may not bring the Lakers any closer to the NBA Finals this season without also adding a point guard.