The L.A. Lakers were two complete meltdowns away from being up 3-1 on the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are still just one major move away from being the favorites to win the West in 2013, and possibly the NBA Championship.
Deron Williams needs to be brought to Lakerland. It will likely be necessary to trade Andrew Bynum for this to happen. Personally, I would do it in a heartbeat. And given the choice between swapping Bynum for D-Will or Dwight Howard? I'd say no to Orlando and not give it a minute's thought.
Deron Williams is one of the five best one-guards in the league. More importantly, he gives the Lakers so many things they've never had.
He is an alpha dog scorer who can throw up 30 if needed and rebounds well for a guard. He wants to play in a big market. Slashing and kicking is the new way to create offense in this league, and if the Lakers want to improve as a three-point shooting team, they need a creator other than Kobe.
Most importantly, D-Will will make the two other best guys on the Lakers far more effective.
Nobody on the Lakers likes it when Kobe hogs the ball. It was a necessity this year because at times, Bynum just wasn't in it and nobody on the Lakers could make an open three. It was pathetic and unnecessarily taxing on a 33-year-old guard. Deron Williams is a brilliant scorer who has no problem helping Kobe save his legs by either scoring himself or injecting all kinds of life into a suddenly more dynamic Lakers offense.
The other reason Kobe needed to shoot was that Paul Gasol didn't consistently present another scoring option. Now, everyone thinks his skills have diminished. That's ridiculous. Pau's game does not predicate on athleticism or physicality, so age doesn't really affect him as much. His soft touch is as good as ever.
The real reason he didn't play well was because Bynum's emergence clogged the lane, taking away from his bread and butter game of the pick-and-roll. Without Bynum, Gasol will have the opportunity to benefit from the best pick-and-roll guard other than Chris Paul in the game, who spent his early career making Carlos Boozer look so good that people compared them to Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Should the Lakers go after Dwight or Deron?
It has to be Bynum who goes, because Gasol's perceived trade value is in the tank right now. With Bynum, teams see a 24-year old center who can throw up 20/10/2 when he's disinterested, and with proper motivation, could definitely be a franchise center.
The last sentence represents exactly why Bynum must be traded. The operating phrase is "proper motivation," and Bynum won't ever get that in L.A. His attitude is so bad it presented problems in practice and games on almost a comically frequent basis. He clashed with Mike Brown, shooting threes when it's completely not his game. He admitted to taking plays off, and it was only a playoff series against a dangerous Denver Nuggets team.
More importantly, he had the nerve to tell Craig Sager that he'd "play anywhere" next season. Fellow Laker fans, this should make you angry and mortally offended. Deep down, Bynum clearly doesn't care enough about the tradition and responsibility of being a Lakers big man. He has every opportunity to seek tutelage from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the greatest center of all time, and simply just does not care. He had every opportunity to demand the ball in his two playoff series against completely inferior front court players like Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins and didn't step up, while letting point guards get by him to the rim effortlessly.
These are problems that you have with mercurial big men who are even bigger divas than wideouts in the NFL. I don't even need to go into Dwight Howard's own prima donna problems to explain why we wouldn't swap Bynum for Howard.
Having a top-three point guard and facilitator is suddenly more important than the best center in the league.
Maybe this is why the most important players of the four best teams left in the playoffs are Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. Maybe that's why Chris Paul was able to drag an inexperienced Clippers team past a deep Memphis team, or Denver almost knocked off the Lakers. Maybe Derrick Rose being on the Bulls is a good enough reason to believe if he wasn't hurt, they'd be the favorites.
Maybe it's the simple intrinsic law that facilitators/point-men are unselfish, will do anything to win and have infectiously competitive and innate leadership abilities that fire up a team. Conversely, big men are mercurial and believe the good things like money, cars and quality touches should be given to them just because they're seven-feet tall and athletic.
It's obvious the best teams who are serious about winning a championship know that point guards or offensive facilitators are the most important to winning in this run-and-gun age of NBA basketball. It should be more obvious that the Lakers have a chance to get one of the three best in that category, and they need to do it at all costs.