5 Offseason Moves the L.A. Lakers Could Have Made

Sim RissoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2012

5 Offseason Moves the L.A. Lakers Could Have Made

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    It's been an eventful offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers and one that's brought a lot of change for the team. Los Angeles added key players like Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison. Also, a few players like Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes and Andrew Bynum have left L.A. for new teams.

    At this point—mere weeks away from the opening of training camp—the team's roster is pretty much set in stone. For better or worse, what you see is what you get.

    However, what about the moves the Lakers could have made this offseason? Now that's a different story. There were plenty of options for L.A. this season and quite a few different directions the front office could have gone in constructing its roster.

    Let's examine a few of those options and what the Lakers could have done differently this offseason. Here are five moves the team could have made heading into the 2012-13 season.

Keep and Sign Andrew Bynum to a Long-Term Extension

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    By now we all know that the Lakers ended up shipping Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the four-team blockbuster that brought center Dwight Howard to Los Angeles. But one thing the team could have done instead was keep Bynum and sign him to a long-term extension.

    Both Howard and Bynum will be restricted free agents following the 2012-13 season. It's not real clear what either player will decide. Although, now that the team's acquired Howard, the odds are in its favor that Howard ends up re-signing, but until he actually signs the contract, you never know for sure.

    To be fair, the same could be said if L.A. kept Bynum instead—that the odds are in the team's favor that he'd re-sign—because the Lakers can offer it all: chance to contend, more money than any other team because of Bird rights and a premier market.

    In a vacuum, just player for player, Howard is superior to Bynum. But we don't live in a vacuum, this is the real world and there are other factors to consider. Both players have health concerns and they've both been disgruntled, which has sometimes detracted from their play.

    Yet the Lakers have a track record of success with Bynum on the team. They have no such track record with Howard.

    Plus, while neither of them is past their primes, Bynum is also two years younger than Howard. So if both players were to get the same contract, Bynum would provide more peak seasons than Howard would.

    So while Howard's certainly the better option for the present and the foreseeable future, there might be more long-term value in Bynum.

Sign Grant Hill

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    Grant Hill ended up signing with the other L.A. team—the Clippers. But before he made that decision, there was talk of Hill joining Steve Nash with the Lakers.

    Getting Hill would have been a nice addition for the Lakers. The only drawback is that in signing Hill, Los Angeles probably wouldn't have also signed Antawn Jamison. It would likely be one or the other.

    Both Hill and Jamison bring a lot to the table. One can make a solid argument that the Lakers would be better off with either one.

    As far as Jamison's concerned, he's a better scoring option than Hill at this stage in their careers. And with L.A.'s bench being the lowest scoring in the NBA last season, bringing in Jamison really helps one of the team's major deficiencies.

    But while Jamison is clearly the better offensive weapon, Grant Hill is a much better defender. Now, the Lakers have solid defenders throughout their starting lineup, but they don't have too many coming off the bench.

    Hill would provide Los Angeles another defensive option as a reserve, which is something you can't really say about Jamison.

    It's somewhat of a wash either way. No matter who the Lakers signed between the two, their odds of winning a championship wouldn't be dramatically different. But it's definitely food for thought.

Not Acquire Chris Duhon

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    When Chris Duhon came to the Lakers as part of the Dwight Howard trade, he was obviously not the focal point of the deal. Duhon was just a throw-in for salary purposes.

    But think back to the the second slide. What if Los Angeles had signed Andrew Bynum to a long-term contract? The team surely wouldn't have traded for Dwight Howard. But the team also wouldn't have acquired Chris Duhon.

    It's not that Duhon is a terrible player, because he isn't. It's that the Lakers have no need for him. They've already got a backup veteran point guard in Steve Blake under contract. And while they're not similar players in terms of skill set, they both bring roughly the same value to a team.

    Whether the Lakers end up keeping both Blake and Duhon on the roster remains to be seen. But either way, they're on the hook for both of their salaries.

    If L.A. hadn't acquired Duhon, they would have an extra roster spot to fill with a player that provides a need. The Lakers also wouldn't be stuck paying $3.25 million to the point guard.

Fortify the Bench Even Further

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    As ESPN's John Hollinger points out in this profile of the Lakers, the thing really holding L.A. back last season was a lack of depth on the bench, and while the team certainly has upgraded the bench, it's still the biggest weakness on the roster.

    The two main additions the Lakers made to the bench in the offseason were adding Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. Of course they still have Jordan Hill and Steve Blake in the mix from last season.

    But just looking at some of the elite teams in the NBA, you can't say that L.A.'s bench is comparable to what they're throwing out there.

    The flip side is that nobody, with the possible exception of the Miami Heat, can match L.A.'s starting five. But you could have made that argument last season, as well. So while the starting five is certainly stronger than last year's, the starting unit was still one of the best in the NBA in 2011-12.

    However, the bench was where L.A. was really lacking last season. While they've made a few steps to fortify it, it's still clearly the weakness of the team. Normally that might not be an issue. But with the Lakers' aging roster, it's imperative to have quality depth to give the starters a breather.

    So we'll have to see if the Lakers' strength (the starting five) is good enough to overcome their biggest weakness (lack of quality depth).

Get a Different Point Guard

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    In terms of talent, the Lakers weren't going to get a better point guard than Steve Nash this offseason. Nash is a future Hall of Famer and a current All-Star caliber player. He's clearly an upgrade over Ramon Sessions or anyone else the Lakers would have guiding the offense.

    However, in order to maximize their potential with Nash, the team, most notably Kobe Bryant, will have to give him the room to operate. It's possible that after losing in the Western Conference semifinals two years in a row, Bryant and the Lakers are willing to back off and give Nash room to work his magic.

    But it's also possible that after being the focal point of the offense since Shaquille O'Neal was traded following the 2003-04 season, that Bryant isn't willing to take a back seat to anybody.

    You can speculate either way, but until we actually see Bryant hand the keys to Nash, we'll never know for sure.

    Instead of getting Nash, the Lakers could have brought in another solid free-agent point guard like D.J. Augustin or Kirk Hinrich.

    While neither of those players is close to Nash's caliber, adding someone else instead have would alleviated any concerns about who's running the show as well as saving the team some money to go out and strengthen its bench.

     

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