How the Los Angeles Lakers Figure into Playoff Race After Trade Deadline

Joshua SextonSenior Analyst IIMarch 16, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 26: Ramon Sessions #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives with the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the season opener at Quicken Loans Arena on December 26, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

In two separate deals on Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jordan Hill from the Houston Rockets.

The team gave up Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and their 2012 first-round pick to acquire Sessions, and dealt Derek Fisher and the pick they received from the Dallas Mavericks in the Lamar Odom trade to the Houston Rockets.

Two of the team's biggest weaknesses this season have been poor point guard play and lack of production from the bench. The team currently ranks 29th and 25th in point guard and bench production, respectively. On paper, with the acquisition of both Sessions and Hill, the Lakers took a step in the right direction in filling these two huge voids.

Sessions is the young, athletic point guard fans have been craving and the team has sorely needed, especially this season with Mike Brown's new offense, which requires more of a traditional point guard than Phil Jackson's triangle offense did.

In Hill, the Lakers have a player who can hopefully quell the team's aforementioned bench woes. Hill has not played one second in a Lakers uniform yet, and is arguably the team's best bench player.

I like the moves the Lakers made today. I really do. But I have a strong feeling the impact of adding Hill and Sessions won't be felt until next season and beyond. It's naive to think these two players will instantly improve the Lakers' stock enough to leapfrog Oklahoma City, or even San Antonio for that matter, in the Western Conference playoff race, or suddenly transform them back into type of team they were in 2009 and 2010, when the team captured back-to-back championships.

As I have written before, the Lakers run the risk of sacrificing success this season by adding new faces.

The combination of a new coach and a new offensive system yielded only mixed results before the trades were made today. Now, two new players, one of which is the team's new starting point guard, will have to learn the new offense on the fly, with hardly any practice time thanks to the compressed schedule. Sessions, Hill and the rest of the Lakers should expect a few growing pains tying to get the newbies feeling comfortable.

The Lakers are currently holding down the third seed in the Western Conference standings. If they continue at the current pace they are on today, they will be guaranteed homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. After the first round, the team will likely have to play their remaining series without the advantage of the extra game at home. And let's remember, the Lakers are only 9-14 on the road. I don't see Sessions and Hill pushing the Lakers over the edge and suddenly making them "road warriors." Unfortunately, I don't see the Lakers climbing much higher than the third seed, or dropping lower than fifth for that matter.

The one thing that could potentially impact the Lakers' success immediately comes from something they didn't do today: Trade Pau Gasol. Since the Chris Paul trade fell through last December, the seven-foot Spaniard has been mentioned in trade rumors. Now that Gasol knows the Lakers want him, at least for the time being, fans could potentially see a rejuvenated Gasol on the court, which could spell doom for the rest of the league.

Despite not being the powerhouse they've been in the past, some fans and pundits will consider the Lakers a legitimate threat this postseason. This can be attributed to having Kobe Bryant and two All-Star caliber seven-footers. But it would be unwise to hinge too much postseason success on the acquisitions the team made today. While the moves the team made today were by all means very good for the long-term success of the team, their impact won't be felt right away. After all, it's essential to let the ingredients of a good recipe come together and cook for awhile before letting people enjoy the final product.

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