Los Angeles Lakers: Win Now or Win Later?

Justin BoninAnalyst IMarch 9, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 17, 2010 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 Mark Terrill/Pool/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers are on top at the moment; however, the signs of aging are starting to show.

Derek Fisher is 36, Kobe Bryant is 32, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom are both 31 and Pau Gasol and Matt Barnes are 30. Age has not become a real problem yet, but in the next couple years, it will.

Being such a strong team, the Lakers are unable to use the draft to    reload on potential youngsters who would facilitate the continued success of the team when the starters leave or retire. Instead, they are forced to acquire these prospects via trade or free agency, and unless they accomplish this over the off-season or throughout the next couple seasons, they may take a dive down the standings.

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

Andrew Bynum and Shannon Brown certainly have bright futures. However, once the starting core finally sputters out, are these really the two guys that the Lakers want to build their team around? The duo of Bynum and Brown is not even tops in Los Angeles, let alone the NBA.

Also, with Andrew Bynum’s history of injuries, and Shannon Brown possibly entering free agency this off-season with the chance to be a starter somewhere else, I am convinced that there is much that Lakers management needs to accomplish in order to ensure a brighter future for the team.

On the flip side, even when Phil Jackson is gone, the Lakers will remain contenders for another two to three seasons if they try to keep consistency on the roster, and continue to make minor tweaks as they did last off-season. Then, once Kobe and company retire, they need only dip into the free agent pool and pull out a star caliber free agent; say Chris Paul or Dwight Howard next year…right?

I feel that we frequently give the Lakers management far too much credit when it comes to being able to land the big name free agents, and as a result, we do not fully understand the situation at hand.

Yes, I do think that the Lakers will make a big push for Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, or Deron Williams next year. However, what happens if they cannot sign any of them?

The Lakers do not have the best track record when it comes to signing free agents, and if you look at the last couple of years, many of their big name acquisitions have come via trade, most notably Pau Gasol.

In addition, with a new collective bargaining agreement on its way, it will be far more difficult to form a super team like in Miami or Boston, and instead the Lakers will need to build a deep talented roster filled with young players two or three years away from becoming solid NBA players. This will be crucial because if the Lakers continue with what they have now, there will be nothing for them to fall back on should they under perform in free agency.

Conclusion: Win now or win later?

If Lakers’ management starts planning ahead now and works to come up with a long term strategy that will allow them to shave a couple years off their age, all while continuing their winning ways, the Lakers will be able to win both now and later. This way they will ultimately succeed in making a smooth transition into the post-Kobe era, which means they will remain contenders even after Kobe and company hang up their shoes for good.