Los Angeles Lakers: 6 Things Lakers Must Do to Be Contenders in 2012
The Los Angeles Lakers have a record of 10-8 through their first 18 games, hardly the kind of start Laker fans were looking for coming into the season. There was a moment of hope for Laker fans after the trade for All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
However, David Stern vetoed the trade, which not only took Chris Paul away from the Lakers but alienated Lamar Odom. Let's examine what the team needs to do if they want to be a contender for the 2012 season.
1. Get a Point Guard
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Derrick Fisher is a fan favorite among Laker fans. He has been a big part of the Lakers' last four championships. However, it is time for Fisher to come off the bench. If you look at the good teams in the NBA today, they have quality play at the point guard position.
The Chicago Bulls have Derrick Rose, Oklahoma City has Westbrook and The Clippers have Chris Paul. You can win playoff games in the NBA without an All-Star point guard, just look at The Heat. The problem is, the Lakers do not have enough depth to get away with it.
Another problem with having no depth, is the fact that there are no trading pieces on the team besides Bynum. The Lakers will most likely not get the point guard they need this season, unless they can pull another steal like the trade for Gasol.
2. Gasol Needs to Get Aggressive
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Gasol has been labeled soft throughout his career. He is more of a finesse center/power forward who gets unnecessary criticism about his play. This year however, his play cannot be defended. He does not call for the ball enough. This was evident against the Orlando Magic last week when he was covered by Ryan Anderson, who Gasol had a clear advantage over with his height and size.
Throughout the first half of the season, it was mainly jump shots from Gasol. When the opportunity presents itself with Pau this year, he tends to back away. When he should be posting up Anderson and drawing fouls, he is instead taking 15-foot jumpers. If Gasol asserts his presence in the paint, the Lakers would have two dominant big men along with a player named Kobe Bryant. While those three can't bring a championship on their own, it would surely make them a contender.
3. Trade for a Shooter
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This goes right in hand with the Lakers' first two problems. No point guard, and a lack of dominance from Gasol leads to no one getting open for shots on the outside. The Lakers have one guard who can create his own shot and that is Bryant.
During the offseason, the Lakers picked up sharp shooter Jason Kapono, but he plays limited minutes and has not shot like he has in the past. While the Lakers do not have the trading pieces to get a big-name player, they do have some bench pieces that could be traded for a shooter.
Someone like Kyle Korver would be a good fit for the Lakers. He is a smart player and a great shooter. However, I doubt the Bulls would pull the trigger unless they receive something irresistible. But if not Korver, what shooter should the Lakers trade for?
4. Bring Back the Triangle
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This one may be far-fetched. The Lakers ran the triangle under Phil Jackson for years. It worked for the most part so why not bring it back? Mike Brown is a defensive coach, which has helped the team rise to sixth in the league for points against.
The Lakers are allowing only 90.5 points per game, but are only averaging 92 which is 20th in the league. Phil Jackson was a master at the triangle, but Bryant has been there long enough to teach the coaching staff how to run it. This change could even make the Lakers more confident and excited about bringing back something they had success with.
5. Play Devin Ebanks
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During the four-game suspension of Andrew Bynum, Ebanks was put into the starting lineup. He shot 50 percent from the field in those four games and averaged about eight points in 20 minutes. Since then, he has not played in 10 of the Lakers next 17 games.
Matt Barnes and Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) show signs of good play, but for the most part look old. The Lakers need to get younger and play their younger players. Ebanks looked solid when he played. Artest and Barnes may be in to help the defense, but I thought Ebanks did a good job on the defensive end and can create more space for open shots or set others up more than Artest and Barnes.
6. Run the Fast Break
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The Lakers are old, we all know that. Older teams cannot run the fast break as well as a young team. The Lakers' halfcourt offense is a nightmare to watch right now, so why not try turning more fast breaks? Whether they like it or not it is something that can help the team.
The Lakers are 25th in the league in fast-break points, averaging nine a game. Earlier this year, the Lakers were outscored by the Denver Nuggets on the fast break 29-5 in a 99-90 loss. If the Lakers can spread the floor and run the break, players can have easier shots and gain more confidence. The key would be Bryant if the break is going to be run. At his age, he might not be willing to run the break as much, but he may have to if he wants to be a contender this year.