Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Moves to Make in the 2012 Offseason
After two consecutive second round exits, the Lakers should be making some major moves this summer. Everyone not named Kobe Bryant is expendable and names like Howard, Williams, and Van Gundy (not that one) are being thrown around.
This summer, the Lakers should be looking to add at least one superstar to pair with Kobe Bryant and add a few formidable bench players.
It's going to be a busy summer in the City of Angels, here are the top five moves the Lakers should make this offseason.
Sign Delonte West
MWP apparently already likes West.
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While the Lakers' unfortunate financial situation eliminates them from making pushes for big-name free agents such as Deron Williams or Kevin Garnett, the team will have enough extra cash to offer a "mini" mid-level exception, essentially a one-year $3 million contract.
The perfect candidate for this offer is Delonte West. West is a skilled combo guard who would bring athleticism, proficient three-point shooting and feisty defense to the Lakers' backcourt. This move would also add much-needed versatility to the roster, as West can excel as a point guard and shooting guard.
West signed a veteran's minimum contract last summer with the Dallas Mavericks, paying him under $1 million, so persuading him to take a $3 million contract to live in Los Angeles and play for one of the most storied organizations in sports and with one of the best players in the history of the NBA shouldn't be too much trouble for Mitch Kupchak.
Re-Sign Key Free Agents: Jordan Hill and Ramon Sessions
AP Photo/Gus Ruelas
After being acquired by the Lakers in March, Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill were key contributors to the Lakers regular-season success. and albeit short, postseason run.
Sessions' contract has a player option for the 2012-2013 season so the decision to play in L.A. another year is ultimately his own. However, the Lakers should do whatever they can to convince the young point guard to exercise that option.
While struggling against the Thunder in the second round, Sessions averaged 12.7 points and more than six assists in just 23 games with the Lakers during the regular season and carried those averages throughout the first-round series against the Denver Nuggets.
You can expect those numbers to improve as Sessions gets more comfortable with his teammates and the offensive system. Sessions is just 26 years old and has only been with this team and in this system for two months. The only scenario in which the Lakers should let Sessions walk is if they acquire a better point guard via trade, which I just don't see happening. Deron Williams is seemingly the only point guard on the market that would be an upgrade from Sessions, but Williams is still unsure of his future.
Keeping Hill around may prove to be much more difficult than Sessions for the Lakers, due to the fact that Hill is an unrestricted free agent, and players with his sort of size and energy are a hot commodity in today's NBA. But provided that no team overreacts to Hill's breakout games, the Lakers may very well be able to hold onto the former Wildcat.
Both Sessions, 26 years old, and Hill, 24, are important to the team's success next year and the years ahead.
Trade Pau Gasol
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It seems like just yesterday when multiple teams were very interested in Pau Gasol. Prior to the 2012 trade deadline teams interested in the seven-foot Spaniard included the Bulls, Rockets, Timberwolves and Celtics.
After a lackluster postseason performance for the second straight year, Gasol's value has seemingly deteriorated almost to the point where he's immovable. Gasol will turn 32 this summer and is set to make $19.0 and $19.2 million in the next two seasons respectively. With the current contracts among NBA players, Pau stands to be the eighth-highest paid player next season.
Because it's still extremely early into the offseason, no teams have shown any real interest in acquiring Gasol. Which leads to people conjuring up random trade scenarios, and after making sure they work on ESPN.com's trade machine, presenting them as real possibilities (which is exactly what I'm about to do.)
At this point, the Houston Rockets seem to be the most interested in Gasol, yet they have been and continue to be reluctant to include Kyle Lowry in the trade. A much simpler, and in my opinion better, trade for the Lakers would be to send Gasol packaged with Andrew Goudelock to the Utah Jazz for Al Jefferson.
Jefferson is one of the handful of big men in the NBA who can play the power forward and center positions. He can score inside, rebound, is a willing passer and also possesses range similar to Gasol's.
Acquiring Jefferson would also save the Lakers money, approximately $4 million this year, and his contract is set to expire after next season, at which time, the Lakers could re-sign him or mark his payroll off the books.
Another favorable possibility is to trade Gasol to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith. Although this move would diminish the Lakers' size, it would drastically improve their problems of athleticism and age. Like Jefferson's contract, Smith's is set to come off the books after the 2013 season.
Trade Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard
The situation in Orlando has escalated to the point where the Magic have to trade Dwight Howard. Back in March, Howard waived his op-out clause and was seemingly set to stick with the team for at least one more year.
However, then came the reports and that awkward double interview in which Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy stated he was told by Magic management that Howard wanted him to be fired. Of course, Howard denied ever saying anything of the sort. A couple of months and a playoff elimination later, both Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith are now out of Orlando.
One would assume that Howard, after coming out on top in the power struggle and Magic management unofficially giving him partial control over the organization, would want to stay with the Magic. However, according to Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com, "Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando."
While New Jersey may be the front-runner in the Howard sweepstakes, teams such as the Mavericks, Clippers and Lakers are also in the hunt. What sets the Lakers apart from those other teams is, simply, Andrew Bynum. No other team could offer a potential franchise player which a team can be built around.
A package deal of Bynum, Steve Blake and Devin Ebanks would satisfy salary restrictions as well as the Magic's wants and would bring Howard to Los Angeles.
Fire Mike Brown, Hire Jeff Van Gundy
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This move is perhaps the least likely of the five, but just as necessary. In fact, the Lakers were interested in Van Gundy last year during their coaching search.
I thought, and still think, they should have made him the head coach over Mike Brown. He has excellent pedigree, he coached the Knicks to the playoffs in each of his five seasons in New York, including a finals run when they entered the playoffs as a No. 8 seed. He also coached Houston and made the playoffs three out of four seasons.
While Mike Brown is a good NBA coach and didn't necessarily underachieve in his first season as the Lakers' head coach, it was obvious that he never had a good feel for the players, evidenced by his questionable substitutions in the playoffs.
It does seem a bit harsh to fire Brown after just one shortened season with limited practice time and an ever-changing roster. But I think it's clear, he's just not the man for the job. His offensive system has always been suspect and his inability to get the most out of his players has been a problem of his since he became a head coach.
Van Gundy is an excellent and respected coach and a recognizable name, due to his time spent as an NBA broadcaster. Bringing him in would generate excitement around the team and the players. The Lakers had the chance to do so last year, and instead, they let it slip away.
As I said, this coaching change is probably the least likely of these moves to actually happen, which is unfortunate for Laker fans because having a great basketball mind like Van Gundy patrol the sidelines would surely help the Lakers in their pursuit of another championship.