Los Angeles Lakers: Life After Kobe Bryant and How to Prepare For It

Justin BoninAnalyst IFebruary 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference moves the ball in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are on top at the moment; however, the signs of aging are beginning to rear their ugly face.  Derek Fisher is 36, Kobe Bryant is 32, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom are both 31, and Pau Gasol and Matt Barnes are both 30.

As mentioned, age has not become a real problem yet, but in the next couple years, it will.

Furthermore, because the Lakers are such a strong team, they are not exactly able to build via the draft.  Therefore, unless they acquire some young talent now, they may have to face a big fall down the standings.

To make matters worse, they could finally be forced to surrender their long standing reputation as “Los Angeles’ team” to Blake Griffin and the up-and-coming Los Angeles Clippers.

The average player age is currently 29.5 years and Andrew Bynum (23), Shannon Brown (25), Derrick Character (22), and Devin Ebanks (21) are the only players on the current roster under 30 years of age.

Andrew Bynum (provided he can stay healthy) and Shannon Brown certainly have bright futures. But they are not a strong enough core to build a championship team around.  A core of Bynum and Brown would not even make the Lakers the best team in the NBA, let alone in Los Angeles.

As a result, it is becoming clear that the Lakers need to get some better young talent, otherwise it will be hard to compete once Kobe and company are gone.

No matter what happens, the team should be proud of their recent success and should continue to focus on their bid to three-peat as NBA Champions.

Barring a miraculous epiphany, Phil Jackson is finished after this year. If the Lakers keep the current starting lineup intact for the next two to three seasons, Kobe and company have a good chance of completing the three-peat this season and maybe even winning a couple more championships after Phil Jackson is gone.

However, following that, they will drop down the standings and may have to enter a partial rebuilding stage.

Consequently, Lakers owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak are now in a sticky situation.  With the trade deadline a little over a day away, they now have to make an important decision that will go a long way in determining the short term outcome for the team, but more importantly, the long term outcome, especially once Kobe and company hang up their shoes for good.

Now Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak are forced to decide what is most important and decide on one of the following two options: 

Option A

Continue the short term success, and reward Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and everyone who has been a part of the three-peat from the beginning by giving them a chance to finish what they started.  But, risk having to enter a rebuilding stage once our current core of players retire.

Option B

Make some big shakeups to the current roster, which would jeopardize the chances of completing the three-peat, which would be Jackson’s fourth and Kobe’s second, but would go a long way in ensuring continued success in the long term once the current stars retire.


So what should they do?  Well it’s hard to say because this is a very difficult decision to make, especially considering how important this championship is for Phil Jackson, as he attempts to earn his fourth three-peat.

The honourable thing to do in this situation would certainly be to go with option A.  Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum have all been integral parts of this three peat and they all deserve to be a part of the team as they attempt to complete it…right?

Keeping them all and hoping they can complete the three-peat that they have all worked incredibly hard for and certainly deserve, would be the honourable and right thing to do for them, but what about the team?

On the other hand, option B, which involves shaking up the current roster and possibly trading some of the players who were integral parts of the three-peat would be in the team’s best interest if they hope to continue their dominance and success in the long term.

If they were to go with option B who would they trade?

Of the players who have been a part of the three-peat from the beginning, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are both untouchables, while Lamar Odom’s trade value may never be higher than it is right now.

Derek Fisher’s experience and leadership would help any contending team looking for a clutch point guard to push them over the edge, and the injury-prone Andrew Bynum, although he is young enough to be a part of the Lakers future, is a great young prospect that has gained quite a bit of interest around the league and could certainly get them some great pieces in return.

And what about the players who have not been part of the three-peat from its beginning?

Shannon Brown has been there for the first two championships, however, he did not come over until halfway through the first season.  Does this make him deserving enough to be a part of the three-peat?

Either way, he is a budding young prospect, with an expiring contract that may flourish if he is given the opportunity to start, and he could certainly get some good pieces in exchange especially if we could package him with someone else.   

And then of course there’s Ron Artest, who has only been there for one of the two seasons. Does his game-winning shot against the Suns in the Western Conference Finals and his clutch play in the Championship-clinching game against the Celtics make him deserving enough to a part of the three-peat?

His lockdown defence and three-point shooting would be a welcome addition to any contending team and could once again get something good in exchange.

Beyond these two, they could also use Matt Barnes, another great defender, and the two young rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Character as trade pieces in combination with those I mentioned earlier.

On a side note, it would also be great to get rid of Luke Walton who is earning $5 million sitting on the bench.  


In the end they have a big decision to make: do they do what’s right for the players or do they do what’s right for the team?  Or could they possibly find some kind of middle ground?


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