The Los Angeles Lakers have 21 games remaining on their schedule before the postseason starts. And with new faces—welcome to Los Angeles, Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill—who are only expected to improve the team, combined with the efforts of the team's big three (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum), it’s not crazy to think the Lakers could make some noise in the playoffs this spring.
But at the same time, the team has plenty of areas in which they still need to vastly improve, in addition to having to potentially deal with a couple of new problems by adding the likes of Sessions and Hill.
So sit back and let's take a look at both the good and the bad of the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.
We will start with the bad and work our way into the good.
Unfortunately, the Lakers didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline to improve their dismal outside shooting. The team currently ranks 28th in the league in three-point field-goal percentage.
While it’s not smart to rely on your point guard to quell three-point shooting problems, newly acquired point guard Ramon Sessions is currently having the best three-point shooting season of his career, shooting 42 percent from three-point land.
Unless the Lakers can improve their marksmanship from beyond the arc before the playoffs start, opposing defenses will have to reason to not pack the paint and focus all of their attention on Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
One of the team's biggest problems this season has been winning on the road. The Lakers are currently 9-14 on the road, following two road victories over the Memphis Grizzles and New Orleans Hornets last week. It will interesting to see if the new additions will instantly make the team "road warriors."
I have my doubts the Lakers can end their road woes, for the simple fact Sessions and Hill will be trying to learn a new offense and getting acclimated with new teammates on the fly, with hardly any practice time.
Unless they can somehow snag the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference—which is probably unreasonable to hope for—the Lakers will be forced to win road playoff games.
Last season, Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum averaged 33 and 27 minutes per game, respectively. This season, both Bryant and Bynum have seen an increase in minutes. Kobe is averaging five more a game (38), while Bynum, thanks to a breakout season, is averaging nine more per contest (36). On top of everything, Pau Gasol is averaging 37 a game.
Bynum has never played this many minutes in his young career. Given Kobe’s age, despite the phenomenal season he is having, the worry about the duo’s stamina come playoff time is a legitimate concern.
The trio of Bynum, Bryant and Gasol playing a lot of minutes this season boils down to the simple fact that they have to. The Lakers average 95 points a game. Bryant, Gasol and Bynum are responsible for 62 of those points per contest. Also, the Lakers are currently last in the league in points per game from the point guard and small forward positions.
Hopefully the addition of Ramon Sessions will erase some of the heavy burden on the team’s big three to score so many points each and every game, which will then lead to more rest leading up to the postseason.
In one of their deadline-day deals on Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Derek Fisher and the 2012 pick the received in the Lamar Odom trade to the Houston Rockets for backup big man Jordan Hill.
Hill hasn’t played one second yet in a Lakers uniform, and he is arguably the team’s best bench player. The Lakers rank dead last in bench points per game (20.5 ppg).
While the Lakers have nothing to lose by adding Hill to their bench, he is certainly no Lamar Odom.
Hill is a good athletic player, capable of grabbing rebounds and blocking shots, but the former Arizona Wildcat doesn’t shoot well from the outside and has a hard time creating his own offense. Meaning the team's bench woes are far from being solved.
There is no doubt the Los Angeles Lakers became a better team by adding Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill last Thursday. But fans shouldn’t start planning a championship parade just yet.
There will likely be some growing pains trying to fit the new pieces with the old ones. The Lakers were largely struggling to master Mike Brown’s new offensive schemes before any new players were added to the mix.
By adding two new faces—one of which will likely be the team’s starting point guard by the end of the season—the team, in a sense, goes back to square one trying to find any cohesion with one another.
There are 21 games left before the playoffs begin. It may be a little unfair to expect the team’s new additions to work magic with such a small sample size.
The Lakers stand a much better chance of making a run at the NBA Finals now than they did last week at this time. But the more minutes Sessions plays and the more comfortable he gets with his teammates, the better chance the Lakers have of making it back to the Finals.
When Mike Brown was hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers last spring, he preached about the team playing good defense. The Lakers, for the most part, have done just that for the majority of the season.
The team currently ranks seventh in opponents' points per game (92.6) and ninth in overall defensive rating. Also, the team is second in the league in rebounds per game, second only to the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers' efficiency playing defense and rebounding may not be enough to overcome their weaknesses, but no team has ever won a championship without playing good defense and rebounding the rock.
The Los Angeles Lakers still have something no other team in the NBA has: two All-Star-quality seven footers. This translates into easy baskets around the rim (the Lakers currently average 38 points a game in the paint, thanks to the efforts of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol), which come at a premium in the playoffs.
Andrew Bynum is having his best professional season, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds, and while Gasol hasn’t been as good as he has in the past, he is still averaging 16 and 10.
And who knows, maybe now that Gasol can focus solely on basketball with all of the trade rumors finally coming to a halt, fans will see a rejuvenated Spaniard on the hardwood.
Despite being 33 years old and nursing both nose and wrist injuries this season, Kobe Bryant is having an MVP-caliber season, averaging a league-best 29 points per game.
Thanks to Kobe’s efforts, the Lakers are currently in first place in the Pacific Division and holding down the third seed in the Western Conference Playoff picture.
Kobe may have a hard time beating out the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the MVP award this spring, but he has certainly silenced anyone who may have claimed he was “too over the hill” to play the type of basketball he has this season.
With the addition of Ramon Sessions, the Los Angeles Lakers finally have the young, quick, athletic point guard they have sorely been lacking the past several seasons.
Kobe Bryant no longer has the burden on his shoulders of being the only perimeter player able to create offense. Sessions now provides Kobe with a backcourt mate who can legitimately be relied upon to create points, whether it be through the pass, shot or free-throw line.
Before the trade on Thursday, the Lakers were getting next to nothing from the point guard position. When the Lakers acquired Sessions on Thursday, he was averaging 10 points a contest. At that point, all of the point guards on the Lakers' roster were combining to average only 12 points a game.
In his first two games with the team, Sessions is averaging eight points and five assists in 19 minutes of action.