5 Roster Moves That Could Lead the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA Championship
For anyone who watched the Lakers get dismantled by Miami last night or score just seven points in the third quarter on Monday against the Dallas Mavericks, it is obvious what Los Angeles does and does not need for it to make a legitimate run at another World Championship.
Granted, the Lakers have played more games than any other team in the NBA up to this point, so they can be excused a bit for their ragged play of late. Their woeful offense managed just 73 points in a last second win over the Mavs when Mr. Reliable—Derek Fisher—canned a three-point shot off a feed from Kobe Bryant.
Against the Heat, and playing without Dwayne Wade and with an ailing LeBron James, the Lakers looked lost again on offense. They exhibited a no-flow scheme of disjointed passes, turnovers and lost rebounds. This is an aging team with an extremely thin bench. And that bench just got a whole lot lighter after point guard Steve Blake sustained an abdominal injury that will keep him in street clothes for up to a month (via the Los Angeles Times).
The Lakers were averaging an anemic 93 points per game—19th in the league before Thursday’s game with the Heat. Their 25 percent accuracy from the three-point range is the worst in the entire league. Metta World Peace, who continues to throw up bricks from downtown, was connecting on just seven percent from beyond the arc.
That means for every 12 or 14 bricks he throws up, one goes in. Not so good.
There’s no question the Lakers could use more talent at point guard and outside shooting. At 37, Derek Fisher is still better than half the other PGs in the NBA, but he is only good for 20-25 minutes a game. With Blake out and rookie Darius Morris playing erratically as his backup, this becomes a very weak position.
If the Lakers can somehow address those two problem areas, it would open up a treasure trove of opportunities for their bigs in the paint. Right now, those bigs are Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. That still may change before the year is over.
I wonder if Mitch Kupchak or Kobe have packed a Lakers jersey with Dwight Howard's name and number 12 on it—just as a reminder they're thinking about the big guy.
Remember sports fans, this is a wish list and won’t be easy to pull off considering the Lakers “over-the-cap” financial situation and the difficulty in making a big move to shore up their weaknesses. Let’s consider these five roster moves that could lead L.A. all the way back to the NBA Finals, if not this June, then in 2013.
As a line goes from the classic movie, Diner: "You gotta have dreams. If you don't have dreams, you know what you've got? Nightmares."
Trade for Dwight Howard
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Yes, it’s nice to see Andrew Bynum in the best shape of his career, averaging close to 16.4 points and 14 rebounds per game.
Shaquille O’Neal went so far as to say on the TNT telecast of the Mavericks game that Bynum “is the best big man in the game right now. He's the only big man in the league that's playing like a true big man" (via the Los Angeles Times).
Some would argue that the Lakers don’t need Dwight Howard—arguably the best and most consistent center of his generation. My argument would be that when such an opportunity arises, you go for it because those opportunities are rare.
If the Lakers were able to pry Howard from Orlando, it would be worth their while to give the Magic both Bynum and Gasol. The deal should include Howard, point guard Jameer Nelson and forward Hedo Turkoglu.
With Howard and Kobe Bryant paired together, the Lakers would attract a number of solid veterans who would want the opportunity to play with these two greats and chase a title. You have to give up something to get something—Bynum may dominate for the next five to seven years, but Howard has already arrived.
Columnist Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel seems to feel the Lakers have already figured out a way to “steal” Howard away from Central Florida.
You better believe, they (Lakers) are figuring out the quickest, most efficient way to pull off "The Great Dwight Heist." They are, after all, the NBA's master diamond thieves, getting filthy rich off of other team's crown jewels.
In fact, they should change their name from L.A. Lakers to L.A. Takers because that is what their franchise is built upon. For nearly a half-century, they have hand-picked the best big men in history from other organizations and won double-digit championships with them. The L.A. Takers don't win titles; they steal them.
Call it what you will—but this deal would certainly propel L.A. back into the conversation and make them the favorite to come out of the West this spring.
Trade Gasol, World Peace, Morris and Draft Pick for Deron Williams
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It's becoming more and more apparent that Deron Williams will not stay in New Jersey.
There had been speculation that the New Jersey Nets would trade their center, Brooke Lopez, to Orlando in a blockbuster deal to get Howard, according to ESPN. But Lopez broke his foot last month and had surgery. He is expected to return in late February, so a window of opportunity for the Lakers is officially open.
Williams is just the type of player the Lakers sorely need. He's a quick, physical point guard who can score and pass with the best in the game. He's a game changer.
The way Los Angeles played against the Heat last night clearly shows how much they struggle at the point. Darius Morris is way in over his head—being force fed because of the injury to Steve Blake. He may eventually mature into a decent player in the league, but not this year.
Williams in Los Angeles would automatically upgrade the team in a huge way. The question is: Will Nets management decide they need to get something now for Williams or let him walk in the summer as a free agent and get nothing?
Deron Williams has averaged 17 points, nine assists and 36 minutes per game during his six years in the league. The 6'3", 210-pound guard is just 27.
L.A. is still Kobe Bryant's team. With Lopez (just 23) coming back, the Nets may envision Gasol on a front line with the young center. You can rest assured that trade talks are going on behind closed doors.
Aaron Brooks: Make a Trade with the Suns When He Returns from China This Spring
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Aaron Brooks is a member of the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese professional league. He made a wrong turn at the Phoenix Suns by betting that the NBA would be locked out for the entire season, and now he is stuck there until the end of their season in March.
If the first two options don't pan out for the Lakers, they should seriously take a look at this one. Brooks wasn't getting the playing time in Phoenix because Steve Nash was still performing at a very high level.
Although slight of build at 6'0", 160 pounds, Brooks can still thread and shred a defense with his quick moves to the basket, and he has been doing so since he came out of Oregon at the No. 26 pick by Houston in the 2007 NBA draft.
Lakers fans remember him giving the team fits during their intense seven-game Western Conference Semifinals series in 2009. Brooks had an off season in 201, but much of that can be attributed to a nagging ankle injury and his limited minutes with the Suns.
And although it's only China, Brooks recently dropped 40 points in 38 minutes for his team—showing that he's regained some of his previous form.
In the 2009-10 season, when he averaged 36 minutes per game, Brooks put in close to 20 points a night on 43 percent shooting, including 40 percent from beyond the arc.
He may not be the only piece needed for the Lakers to win a title but, at 27, Aaron Brooks would make a significant difference.
Turn the Bench Over: Severe Ties with World Peace
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Here's the problem—the Peace Corps shouldn't be manning a bench in the NBA. It's a nightly war out there on the hardwood, and this bunch of basketball misfits on the Lakers is just not up for the fight.
I know it's "still early" in the season but, really, it's not too early to realize this bench stinks. Where shall we begin?
How about the fact that the team stupidly traded away the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, primarily because he didn't feel wanted after Kupchak and the Buss family tried to trade Pau Gasol and him to New Orleans for Chris Paul. As emotional as Odom was about the whole thing, he eventually would have gotten over it.
Who out there reading this wouldn't prefer a disgruntled Lamar Odom to the under-performing, way-past-his-offensive-prime Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) as the leader of the Lakers bench?
Want to take another second to think about this one? I didn't think so.
The Lakers bench this year is pathetic to say the least. The drop off from the starting five of Bynum, Gasol, Bryant, Fisher and Matt Barnes is dramatic.
The team needs to jettison at least half of these players, including World Peace, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono. They need to start over by using the amnesty rule on World Peace to free up money and, with the $8.9 million trade exception from the Odom trade to Dallas, bring in some new talent.
Anything would be an improvement over a bench that ranks near the bottom of the league in points scored per game. Keep Josh McRoberts—everyone else is expendable.
Bring Back Lamar Odom: No Seriously!
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What were they thinking?
They just don't give up 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, three assists and 32 solid minutes per game from a 6'11" power forward who plays all positions very well, can bring the ball up the court, throw the great pass and display moves to the rim that rival the best players in the game.
Lamar Odom shot a career best 53 percent (38 percent from three-point) from the floor last year and was named the league's top reserve. He anchored a bench that often played better than the starters and he was an inspirational, vocal leader in the locker room for the team.
Odom looks like a lost puppy in Dallas—he is as out of place in American Airlines Arena playing for Mark Cuban as Jay Leno would be on Dancing With The Stars.
Averaging just 6.9 points on 31 percent shooting, Odom is a drag on the Mavericks front line and is only getting in 20.6 minutes per game.
It's happened before—a star player suddenly traded from his team eventually returns when both sides realize the deal should not have been made in the first place. The Lakers need to admit they made an enormous error with this one and see if Cuban will rescind the trade. Why not?
To be honest with you, I don't like it, Kobe Bryant said to ESPN.com writer Dave McMenamin. It's tough to lose Lamar. Pau (Gasol) is still here, and we're all thankful for that. It's hard when you've been through so many battles with players to just see them go somewhere else. It's tough.
As a basketball player, it confuses you as to what your focus should be, Fisher told McMenamin of ESPN.com. I'm very disappointed and frustrated for (Odom and Gasol). If I had my choice, Lamar would be a Laker for life.
L.O. is gone and the Lakers are the worst looking 10-6 team in basketball. Getting him back is a long shot, but they should wipe the egg off their faces and at least make the effort.