LA Lakers Areas That Must Be Upgraded Before Next Season

Richard Le@rle1993Contributor IIIJune 5, 2013

Mar 27, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) congratulates teammates Kobe Bryant (24) and Steve Nash (10) at the end of the fourth quarter at Target Center. Lakers won 120-117. Mandatory Credit:  Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With Kobe Bryant trying to work his way back in time for opening night of the 2013-14 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers' short-term future may not be as perilous as initially thought.

However, there are several areas in the Lakers' organization that must be addressed before next season tips off in order for the Lakers to have any chance of success.

The Front Court

As the Lakers stand, they will only be employing Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Jordan Hill in their frontcourt. That means that the Lakers are in desperate need of a frontcourt upgrade before the start of the season.

The most obvious means to shoring up the frontcourt is to re-sign Dwight Howard, which won't be easy for a franchise that did not have the success expected of it last season.

With various teams vying for Howard's services next season, according to ESPN Insider Larry Coon, the Lakers may need to try and find front court help elsewhere. 

However, given the fact that the Lakers are set to be above the salary cap, regardless of whether or not Howard re-signs, they are going to have to utilize the exceptions they have among their non-qualifying veteran free agents—primarily Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark. 

While re-signing Jamison and Clark won't make the Lakers' frontcourt more potent, having interchangeable bodies and productive bench players are important for a Lakers' frontcourt that is very thin. 

From a salary standpoint, the Lakers wouldn't be able to make any huge upgrades unless they manage to re-sign Howard.

Perimeter Defense

With Steve Nash being a defensive liability regardless of the status of his health, the Lakers are going to need to find some help for Bryant, who is going to be hindered by his comeback from an Achilles tendon injury, in terms of perimeter defense.

However, with the Lakers well above the salary cap, they have very few options.

Trying to re-sign some of their younger guards such as Darius Morris is a gamble for their potential to blossom into productive players on both ends of the court.

While this is a risky proposition for a team that can't really afford to make blunders salary-wise, the Lakers have no other options.

With only an ailing Nash and an aging Chris Duhon manning the point guard position, the Lakers are going to need to re-sign at least one of their young prospects in order to help the two veterans defend the athletic point guards in the league.

In terms of defending the shooting guard position, Bryant has shown that, as he continues to age, his defense will suffer in order for him to retain his high-level productivity on offense.

It is up to Jodie Meeks to try and shore up the defense as best as he can off of the bench. Bryant may have to let his offense suffer in order to be more alert and focused on the defensive end. 

If the Lakers can re-sign Howard and have him progress offensively, perhaps Bryant may not need to shoulder the offensive load as much and can put more effort on his defense. However, that may not be realistic, considering Howard's lack of offensive progression since the exposure of his interior weaknesses in the 2009 NBA Finals. 

Coaching Staff

There is no doubt that the problem with the Lakers' coaching staff falls upon the head coach himself.

Mike D'Antoni has shown that he is definitely not the right coach for this Lakers franchise. 

D'Antoni started off the season showing favoring Nash and Howard, alienating Gasol and trying to enforce his run-and-gun system with a team that was clearly not suited to that style.

On top of that, he refused to allow Gasol and Howard to initially play together, mitigating the Lakers' advantages in terms of size and interior presence. 

By the conclusion of the season, Gasol and Howard had proven that the Lakers played best when they played together. 

Despite the Lakers' late-season surge, Howard still felt mitigated in D'Antoni's system. Meanwhile, Nash became a non-factor on both ends of the court due to injuries and D'Antoni's inability to  maximize the talent on his team despite his eventual conversion to a more post-oriented offense. 

Perhaps his most glaring oversight was his lack of emphasis on defense. That was not news, as D'Antoni has never been a big proponent of defense and has always been an offensive-minded coach.

For a franchise that considers anything short of a championship a failure, D'Antoni's system has proven that it cannot yield a championship.

At its peak, D'Antoni's system made the Phoenix Suns arguably the most entertaining team in basketball. However, they never got over the hump and couldn't defeat the more traditionally built San Antonio Spurs

At its worst, D'Antoni's system produced catastrophic failures in New York and L.A. 

No matter what the Lakers do roster-wise, they will not find any measure of postseason success unless they find a coach who can find a system that works to the strengths of the roster.

Mike D'Antoni is not that coach. 


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