The Lakers’ weaknesses were exposed in the playoffs this year and, after failing to move up into the first round of the draft, the team needs to make some major moves this off-season in free agency if they are to remain a legitimate contender in 2013.
The most obvious move would be going after Dwight Howard. However, there are a number of teams vying for the big man's talents—most notably Brooklyn, Houston and Dallas—and acquiring him is a bit of a long shot. While these three teams have the cap space needed to sign Howard to a big contract, the Lakers have a massive payroll and would definitely need to clear up some cap space by trading Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum.
Of course, there is always the option of trading one of these players to Orlando for the rights to Superman before he hits the open market. If Howard is set on leaving the Magic, Orlando must accept some form of a trade in order to get something for their all-star center, much like the Nuggets did with Melo.
If Howard hits the open market, it will be much harder for the Lakers to land the dominating big man however, so the Bynum-Howard trade seems to be the most viable for the Magic as they do not seem to be interested in the Rockets recent draft picks.
Another interesting option for the Lakers this off-season, reported by ESPN.com, would be going after point guard Johnny Flynn. Though he has struggled in his career so far in the NBA after a very promising collegiate career at Syracuse, playing for a talented team like the Lakers could drastically alter his NBA fortunes and the Lakers currently do not have a starting point guard on their roster.
Though he has had trouble with injury in the past, Flynn is an extremely-athletic point guard who can score with ease—both with his jumper as well as his slashing ability—run the transition offense very effectively and find open shooters off of penetration regularly.
Having a back-court of Flynn and Bryant would be a very dangerous combination, as both are match up nightmares due to their athleticism and ability to both score as well as pass. In addition, Flynn will likely be a cheap addition due to his poor performances so far in the NBA—a very important factor for the thinly-spread finances of the Lakers.
Lastly, with Pau Gaso getting older and the twin towers of Gasol and Bynum becoming somewhat stagnant, the offer, reported by the Los Angles Times, to trade Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks for Pau Gasol, should be actively perused by the Lakers this off-season.
Josh Smith is easily one of the most athletic players in the league, who not only has great offensive abilities, both in the post and on the wing, but also is one of the best defenders around. He would be a terrific addition to an aging Lakers team.
Ideally, if the Lakers are able to land both Johnny Flynn and Josh Smith, the identity of this team would be greatly altered—and for the best in my opinion.
The team would instantly become a younger and more athletic team, would be capable of keeping up with the young legs in Oklahoma City, would be a terror in the transition game, and would still have a very potent half-court offense with Kobe and Bynum.
In addition, in this scenario, the Lakers would not have to spend an extraordinary amount of money and would be able to keep the majority of their team in place.
While Jerry Buss has stated he is not looking to make any major moves this off-season, he should definitely re-think his position as the Thunder are clearly the team to beat in the West and, as we saw in the second round of the postseason this year, the Lakers simply cannot keep up. Moreover, there is a lot of talent being moved around this summer that could drastically improve their chances against a Thunder team that will only get better with time.