With the 2013 NBA offseason here earlier than expected for the Los Angeles Lakers, there could be a host of sweeping changes occurring within the organization.
Perhaps no other team in the league endures more scrutiny than the Lakers, in good times or bad. Considering the trials and tribulations L.A. went through for the duration of the 2012-13 campaign—coupled with immense preseason hype—the non-stop frenzy of fan and media criticism was certainly deserved.
If the Lakers want to fix their issues, change the sentiment regarding the team and actually contend in 2013-14, they’ll need to make some moves this summer.
Let’s take a look at a few possible options that are rumored to be on the table.
Pau Gasol Has Surgery and Future in L.A.
Despite being a scapegoat for many of the Lakers troubles this season, Pau Gasol stepped up in a big way down the stretch. He put together two triple-doubles in the last three games of the year, willing L.A. to an improbable No. 7 seed in the playoffs.
Those types of performances are what the veteran big man is capable of on a regular basis. Head coach Mike D’Antoni couldn’t seem to find a way to integrate him into the offense alongside Dwight Howard.
The pair finally found a way to work together after Kobe Bryant’s season-ending Achilles injury, which is a large reason why the Lakers are likely to retain the Spaniard this summer in lieu of cutting him or dealing him away.
According to NBA writer Mark Heisler, the Lakers front office main plan is to keep Gasol and also bring back the other main contributors from last season’s up-and-down run. That would also include Dwight Howard, who is an unrestricted free agent and still up in the air about his future.
The 32-year-old Gasol has undergone a procedure on both of his knees in order to treat the tendonosis he is suffering.
This just in: Source w/knowledge of #Laker discussions says keeping Pau, bringing this team back isn't merely an option, it's now Plan A.— Mark Heisler (@MarkHeisler) May 5, 2013
His timetable for recovery isn’t yet set, but it shouldn’t impact his ability to get on the floor for the start of the 2012-13 season, nor should it negatively affect general manager Mitch Kupchak’s desire to keep the power forward for another run in 2013-14.
The timeline for Pau's recovery will be announced after the procedure— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 8, 2013
Mike D’Antoni Exploring Defensive-Oriented Assistants
Mike D’Antoni is widely regarded as an offensive guru in the modern NBA, who would love to run a specialized offense to get the most out of his center, point guard and shooters on the perimeter.
While that hasn’t been the case due to injuries and personnel issues in L.A., he’s undoubtedly found a way to maximize offensive production from his lineup. L.A. was sixth in the league in points per game, scoring 102.2 per contest in 2012-13.
However, the defense was certainly lacking, as the Lakers gave up 101.0 points to the opposition in that same span.
Some fans may want D’Antoni to be fired for these shortcomings but the answer may lie with the hiring of a defensive-minded assistant to install a system and help the players to utilize it effectively.
There’s now plenty of space for more coaching staffers as assistants Bernie Bickerstaff and Chuck Person have reportedly been released. Steve Clifford is interviewing for the Charlotte Bobcats’ head coach position.
How much difference will a great defensive assistant make in L.A.?
Ken Berger of CBS Sports is reporting that D’Antoni would like to bring in Nate McMillan—former Trail Blazers coach and Team USA associate—or Alvin Gentry, who worked under D’Antoni during a successful tenure in Phoenix.
Regardless of who is selected, they’ll need to bring a smart scheme that can be easily run by an aging roster. They’ll also need an iron will and no-nonsense attitude to make sure that the players listen and follow instructions to a T.
It’s a tall task but successfully implementing a top-notch defense could mean the difference between the Lakers winning a championship or getting swept in the opening round of the playoffs.
The 2013 NBA draft class may be one of the weaker ones in recent years, but the Lakers could possibly find a serviceable rotation player with the No. 47 pick.
You can expect the organization to search high and low to find the best available player with the most upside when it selects in the second round as they are unencumbered from having to dole out a guaranteed contract to any first-round pick.
So far, the Lakers are known to have worked out two intriguing prospects in former Notre Dame power forward Jack Cooley and Colorado State center Colton Iverson, according to Yannis Koutroupis of Hoopsworld.com.
Former ND power forward Jack Cooley had a strong showing in a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers today. Made over 60 percent from NBA 3.— Yannis Koutroupis (@YannisHW) May 8, 2013
Colton Iverson also worked out for the Lakers today and ran the floor really well, a product of the hard work he's put in @impactbball.— Yannis Koutroupis (@YannisHW) May 8, 2013
This is mildly surprising as the Lakers had major issues with the backcourt depth after Bryant went down. Considering the Black Mamba will be sidelined well into the 2013-14 campaign, it would make more sense for L.A. to heavily consider a guard with its pick.
Judging from these workouts, expect the front office to leave no stone unturned in the weeks leading up to the draft and do its best to bring in an actual contributor, regardless of position.