5 Biggest Issues Los Angeles Lakers Must Address at the Trade Deadline
If you look closely, there's talent to be found on this roster—a concept that is often overlooked by those league-wide. The problem is, injuries have massacred any chance this team once had, and even some who are healthy are struggling with Mike D'Antoni at the helm.
The interesting part about the Lakers is that, depending on how you view it, they could be buyers or sellers at the deadline. There are a number of narratives that justify each approach, and it all depends on what direction general manager Mitch Kupchak wants to take the organization.
One way or another, moves should be made. The question is whether those moves are aimed toward success now or into the future.
We'll find out which one it is soon enough, as the 2014 deadline is Feb. 20—less than one month away.
To Tank or Not to Tank?
The biggest issue surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers—to tank, or not to tank—is one that must be discussed well before Feb. 20.
According to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Mitch Kupchak has no desire to tank in the traditional sense. He won't instruct his coaches or his players to lose, as he considers that an unacceptable way to run an organization.
Despite avoiding tanking like the plague, the GM admits that "rebuilding is another matter." You can bet the future is already on his mind, lending us the notion that immediate success might not be a priority.
If the Lakers opt to rebuild starting this season, they'll be sellers. There's no point in bringing back talent right away—talent that could push them further from the No. 1 pick and closer to the luxury tax.
Then again, if pride is on the line, winning games remains a concern.
This team certainly has areas where it can improve, and deciding whether or not to fix them is a topic all in its own worth addressing.
Depth at Point Guard
Regardless of how the Los Angeles Lakers approach the deadline, something must be done to help the point guard position.
Presently, L.A. has four point guards on the roster. Depth at this spot shouldn't be a concern, but the injury bug has bitten hard during the first half of the season.
As of Jan. 21, Kendall Marshall, a player brought in out of desperation, is the only healthy floor general. He's performed well, averaging around 10 points and nine assists on the year, but he and Jodie Meeks are playing an incredible number of minutes in the backcourt.
Bringing in help is vital for the Lakers, but it's also complicated. The hope is that Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar will eventually be (and stay) healthy, meaning minutes will be tough to come by at the 1.
Having a logjam at point guard is a very real possibility toward the end of the season, but it's a good problem to have considering the current situation.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 19th in the NBA in rebounds per game, but as mediocre as that sounds, it's actually flattering considering how bad they've been.
Despite being 11th in defensive rebounds, the team is just 22nd on offense. The real problem, however, comes when you look at rebounds allowed—a category that sheds light on the bigger issue.
Up to this point, Los Angeles is allowing 13.5 offensive rebounds per contest, as well as 35 on defense. Both of those numbers are dead last in the league, and both need to be improved with more physicality.
If you're wondering whether or not the Lakers' good (or often times middling) rebounding numbers outweigh their opponents', that answer is no. The Lakers are also last in rebounding differential—a category in which they are 10.2 rebounds behind the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder.
Bringing in big bodies will help, but players with the right mentality are even more important. Finding someone with both would be ideal for a team that desperately needs to improve on the glass.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The Los Angeles Lakers' defense has been a problem all season, but things have taken a turn for the worst since the beat down they received from the Denver Nuggets.
On Jan. 5, Denver invaded Staples and put on a show. The Nuggets walked away with a 22-point victory, but the more impressive part is that they scored 137 points of their own in the process.
Since that night, the Lakers have allowed their opponents to score 115.1 points in nine outings. They only won two of those games, and their points per game allowed has risen to 105.8 on the year—the second-worst mark in the NBA.
Specifically, look at points in the paint and transition defense. According to TeamRankings.com, the team is second-to-last when it comes to defending the paint, and it is last in opponent fast-break scoring.
Stats like these have rung true all season, as evidenced by Jordan Hill's remarks back in December. Following a 12-point loss to the Toronto Raptors, Hill stated, "We rely on our offense instead of our defense...if we defend and stop our opponent from scoring, our offense will become easier."
That quote comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina, and the fact that it's still relevant at this juncture is a sign that change is necessary.
The Paul Gasol Situation
This is the one that has made headlines, and will continue to draw attention all the way until Feb. 20.
In the case of Pau Gasol, we could see him traded whether the Los Angeles Lakers are buying or selling at the deadline. His recent increase in production makes him valuable to playoff-bound hopefuls, yet his expiring contract is just as appealing to any squad starting over.
Then there's the thought that Gasol's revival could actually spark a run in the second half of the year. As B/R's Dan Favale points out, the addition of Kendall Marshall has helped bring Gasol back to life.
"Merely having Marshall, a pass-first point guard with a solid handle, is a huge boon for Gasol. He doesn't have to worry about creating his own shots as much, and the looks he's receiving are high-percentage opportunities."
One way or another, this issue will be addressed. Gasol will be moved at the deadline or he won't, but either way, this will be a topic to follow.
Gasol has been on the trading block for what seems like years, and with his run in L.A. nearing an end, the question is: Will he make it to the summer where he can potentially walk away on his own terms?