Nuggets vs. Lakers: Game 7 Proves L.A. Must Make Offseason Changes

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IMay 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers confers with head coach Mike Brown during the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 96-71. 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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As a franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers are at a crossroads of where they are headed in the future.

Tough decisions on what future Lakers' teams will look like are going to have to be made by general manager Mitch Kupchak, and a Game 7 win Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets shouldn't impact his decision one bit.

Simply being taken to seven games by the younger and more athletic Denver Nuggets is a glaring sign that the Lakers need to make major offseason moves.

The Nuggets has exposed something in Los Angeles, and that's the fact that they aren't very athletic. To compete in the future, Kupchak must make that a focal point in the offseason. Even if the Lakers win against Denver and advance to the second round, there's a younger and more athletic team awaiting them in the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oklahoma City will also expose major weaknesses in the Lakers, and if not, there are ultra athletic teams like the Miami Heat that will do the job for them.

Even Lakers legend Magic Johnson feels changes are needed.

During ESPN's NBA broadcast on Friday, Magic Johnson claimed that Mike Brown's job was in jeopardy if the Lakers lost Game 7. According to Mark Medina from, Johnson said:

"They're going to run Mike Brown first out of town," Johnson said as an ESPN analyst Friday. "Then second will be [Andrew] Bynum. Then third will be [Pau] Gasol."

"Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game," Johnson said. "There would be so much pressure on Jim Buss and the Laker organization to get rid of him." 

While Magic is speculating on what the Lakers will do, there's not much doubting that change is in order.

In fact, with an eye on competing in the future, changes should be made even if the Lakers win tonight and advance to the second round.

Their window is closing fast with the current group, and to avoid a few down years, Kupchak should look to make a huge splash this offseason.

First, with respect to the coaching position, it's very possible Brown is made the scapegoat if the Lakers fail to make a long playoff run. The Lakers are about championships and this team isn't exactly a championship-level team.

Even though the Lakers' front office has praised Brown throughout the season, heads will roll and Brown is likely first on the list.

Then there's Bynum, who's antics on and off the court are wearing thin. Kupchak indicated in March his intention to exercise the $16.1-million option for the last year of Bynum's contract. But despite the increased production from the 24-year-old, he's a guy that hasn't shown an ounce of being a player the Lakers can build around.

DENVER, CO - MAY 10:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers (L) and Andrew Bynum #17 react from the bench against the Denver Nuggets in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 10, 2012 in Denver,
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Bynum has value and has been the subject of trade rumors in the past. If things end ugly for the Lakers, his name very well could end up back on the trade block.

Finally, there's Gasol, who was the subject of trade rumors all season long. He's a guy that's owed $38.3 million for the next two seasons.

It's been no secret that the Lakers have serious financial issues right now as it pertains to the salary cap. Whether or not the Lakers are still playing basketball next week shouldn't affect the future plans for this team.

Now could be the perfect opportunity to get younger and more athletic in the process and also add some quality depth that this Lakers team is missing.

Anything short of an NBA Finals appearance should result in major changes in Lakerland.