Los Angeles Lakers the Perfect Storm: 7 Steps to Change Their Future
The Lakers' chemistry has been questionable over this season. The defending champs did their best to hide their inner team issues. Although towards the end of the regular season they began to fall apart.
The "Lake Show" entered the playoffs on a downward spiral. They showed further regression against the New Orleans Hornets. There was no energy from the Lakers, and little communication. Still, despite their inconsistencies they prevailed.
The second round brought their biggest inner conference threat, the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs and Lakers battled in the regular season for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Both were beat out by the Spurs, but both proved they were forces to be reckoned with. L.A.'s team chemistry, team communication, and team energy was worse than ever in this series.
The Lakers' slow decline reached it's peak the minute Dallas stepped on the floor. The Lakers finally collapsed. "Zen Master" Phil Jackson lost his control and resorted to hitting Pau Gasol in the chest, to get him to play better.
Ron Artest was ejected and suspended one game for knocking down Jose Barea, Lamar Odom was ejected in the final minutes of game four for shoving Dirk Nowitzky, and finally Andrew Bynum was ejected at the end of Game 4 for elbowing Barea in the air sending him head first into the hardwood.
The champs were no more, and they were swept by the once "soft" Mavericks.
As tragic as this all may sound it could be just what the franchise needed. The Lakers organization shouldn't have too hard a time making decisions this off-season, because their players have seemingly decided their own fates.
Here is a list of off-season moves to make this summer perfect for the Lakers, and to bring the franchise back to it's top of the crop status.
Step One: Make Brian Shaw Head Coach
I think everyone agrees that Shaw is the man for the job.
Reason one, he's earned it.
Reason two, he's been groomed for it by Phil Jackson himself.
Reason three, he is respected by players—most importantly Kobe.
Step Two: Acquire Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard's drive, energy, dedication, and his all around skill set, make him a perfect fit for L.A. (and any other team).
Howard has had the mentoring of all-time great centers Ewing and Olajuwon, and coming to L.A. would give him an opportunity to learn from another all-time great center—Lakers legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Trade Pau Gasol for Dwight. Throw in one more player if it seals the deal, as long as it's not Kobe or Bynum. Its possible Artest, Barnes (sing and trade), or Brown (sign and trade) could be gone here, but it would be worth it.
Odom going as part of the deal is unlikely due to salary issues. The Magic wouldn't want to take on so much, and the Lakers wouldn't want to relieve some of the Magic's cap space.
Why would Orlando trade Howard? For one, he hasn't signed a contract extension. They can't bet their hopes on D12 being loyal when they haven't built a solid team around him.
The Magic have a roster full of overpaid over the hill veterans, and some young mediocre talent filling their cracks. That franchise needs to make some serious moves. Pau Gasol is the Spanish Dirk Nowitzky.
How could they pass up on gaining a franchise player for their franchise player, when they could lose him to free agency and get nothing. I don't see the Magic making the Shaq mistake again.
I don't see another team ready to spend as big a bargaining chip as Gasol to acquire Howard.
Step Three: Trade Bynum
Yes that would mean no Bynum or Gasol next season.
Bynum is in his prime and he is a top five big man. Still his attitude towards his teammates shows that he doesn't fit. They got Dwight from step one, so they can let go of Bynum.
Where do you trade him, and for what? Send Bynum to the Cavaliers, Timberwolves, or Raptors depending on who lands the top pick. Each of these teams could build a winner around Bynum, and the Lakers could draft Kyrie Irving.
The Cavs have a $14 million trade exception, and they need a real big man in the middle. They would also still have their second lottery pick from the clippers.
The Wolves are looking to sign Irving with the first pick, but they are also looking at Rubio coming to the NBA next season.
The Raptors have a $9 million trade exception, and they could use a big body next to Andrea Bargnani.
The Lakers would have their point guard of the future, without the Chris Paul price tag.
Step Four: Keep Fisher and Odom
Derek Fisher is a great leader (union rep.), and he will help to mentor all the young additions to the team.
Fisher will especially help the development of Kyrie Irving, if they were to acquire him through step three.
These three veterans should retire Lakers.
Step Five: Cut the Dead Weight
The Lakers bench was useless this post season. Los Angeles needs to clear the bench and add pieces that actually compliment their team.
Let go of free agents Joe Smith, Theo Ratliff, Derrick Caracter, and Trey Johnson.
Trade away Luke Walton and Steve Blake to whoever will take them.
Step Six: Add a Wing Who Contributes on Both Ends of the Floor
Wilson Chandler is a restricted free agent this summer. Chandler deserves a starting role on a playoff team.
The Nuggets may have a hard time bidding for a bench player who's offer sheet matches a starter's salary.
Chandler averaged 15.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 1.7 blocks per game. He can score and he's a lock-down defender.
Step Seven: Make Four Second-Round Picks Count
The Lakers have no first round picks as of now, but they do have four second-round picks (41, 46, 56, 58). This would be a good time to add some depth.
Drafting either Maryland center Jordan Williams (if he falls to the second round), or Fresno State center Greg Smith would give L.A. some depth behind Howard.
If they could land both they'd have a good young rotation at the four and five spots.
Jordan Williams is 6'10" and 260 pounds, perfect size for either post position. His season averages are 16.9 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks per game.
To translate those numbers to the next level he'll need to hit the weights a little, but what rookie doesn't need to add muscle. Also, with "Superman" as a workout partner he shouldn't have a hard time getting motivated in the gym.
Greg Smith is a solid reserve player, and he may prove to be a quality starter one day. Smith is 6'10" and 250 pounds, also an NBA ready build and frame.
L.A. should also aim to grab a reserve wing. Ohio State guard David Lighty or Kentucky guard DeAndre Liggins could be a defensive presence off the bench.