The Lakers are a team that has used its core of Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum to win two championships in the last three years. It is a team based on tradition and is driven by veteran leadership.
Things have changed.
Fisher is a sad shell of what he once was, and Bryant has slowly started heading towards the twilight of his career.
With the last two drafts(and a late-season signing), the Lakers have found six diamonds in the rough in young players Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter, Trey Johnson, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, and Ater Majok.
With new head coach Mike Brown, the Lakers get a new run-and-gun offense that, let's face it, the older Lakers veterans can't keep up with. Mike Brown has also been known to actually play his rookies a lot more than Phil Jackson ever did.
With the inclusion of these young players in their rotation, the Lakers can have more success than the year before.
Before I tell you why the Lakers will benefit from their production, let's tell you a little more about these guys.
Lakers fans got excited when they heard their team decided to draft small forward Devin Ebanks with the 43rd pick in the 2010 NBA draft. I guess Phil Jackson was never quite as excited as the fans were, though, because like many other LA rookies, Ebanks spent most of his time in his warm-ups.
With Ebanks, the Lakers got a versatile swing-man that is skilled at both ends of the court. At 6'9", Ebanks' game is almost identical to that of former Laker fan-favorite Trevor Ariza. He is long and skilled on the defensive end, a good driver, runs the floor well, and has the potential to become a consistent three-point shooter.
With Kobe Bryant on the squad, I wouldn't be surprised if Bryant became a mentor for Devin like he is for Shannon Brown. Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes could also step up into that role and help Ebanks' shooting, ball-handeling, and defense.
With Ebanks, the Lakers could have the star of the future for their team.
Derrick Caracter is fundamentally sound at his position. He is a force in the post and has drawn comparisons to Charles Barkley.
He is not in the best shape, but has good footwork. He is a gifted back-to-the-basket player and has numerous post moves in his arsenal.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol can step up to help develop Caracter's game into one that is dominant, but shows finesse at the same time.
Trey Johnson was given the most playing time in the playoffs out of all three Lakers rookies. What I saw when watching him play was potential. He was a prolific scorer in the D-League and was a was a strong contender for MVP.
The Lakers called him up just in time for Johnson to play one game in the regular season.
When he was on the court during the post-season, Johnson immediately caught my eye. It was the first time I had seen him play, and in my opinion, could have out performed starting point guard Derek Fisher if given the same number of minutes as the veteran point guard.
He is a sharp shooter and an offensively minded point guard. He is more efficient than Fisher on both ends of the court. Look for D-Fish to play a key role in the development of Trey Johnson.
Goudelock is a natural-born scorer. He is a gifted shooter with unbelievable range. He was also a steel for the Lakers and could possibly replace Shannon Brown if Brown signs with another team.
Kobe is no longer able to play forty minutes a night, so Goudelock could come on the floor and the Lakers would not lose much production.
Andrew can also play point guard, and an extra back-up in isn't a bad idea for the Lakers.
Look for Goudelock to be nurtured by coach Mike Brown into a solid role player for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Darius Morris could go down as one of the greatest draft steals of this decade. He's that good. It is not entirely clear to me why he wasn't taken earlier. He was undoubtedly one of the best point guards in the draft.
He is an old-school, pass-first type point guard. He had some of the best court vision in all of college basketball. He is tall and athletic for his position at 6'5", and he has drawn comparisons to Rajon Rondo.
He may not have the best jump-shot, but he has plenty of time to work on it. Look for Morris to start at point guard for the Lakers next season.
Majok played for UConn during the 2009-10 season. With an average of 2.3 points a game, Ater left the team and played overseas in Turkey and Australia. He is a native of Sydney, Australia.
When watching the training camp video for the Los Angeles Lakers, I felt Majok's game was similar to that of Hakim Warrick and Amare Stoudemire.
He stands at 6'11" and plays power forward. He is athletic and a good shooter at his position, just like Warrick and Stoudemire.
It's going to be tough for Majok to crack the Lakers' rotation, but if he does, don't plan on him disappointing anybody.
Throughout their championships runs, The Lakers have been recognized as a solid defensive team. The team is filled with pesky defenders in Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Derek Fisher, and a low-post, defensive presence in Andrew Bynum.
Clearly, some of the names listed above are no longer the defenders they were at the peaks of their careers. Derek Fisher can no longer keep up with the new wave of young, electrifying point guards, and Ron Artest isn't quite the lock-down defender he was just a year ago.
Nearly all of the young players the Lakers gained are great defensively.
Devin Ebanks is long and has proven himself a great perimeter defender. Derrick Caracter is a strong defensive presence and capable shot-blocker. Trey Johnson is a pesky man-to-man defender as seen in the image. Andrew Goudelock is strong on the defensive end. Darius Morris has defensive capabilities similar to that of Rajon Rondo. And Ater Majok has a gifted shot-blocking ability.
With Mike Brown's defensive-minded coaching, these players should get to showcase their defensive repertoire on a consistent basis.
To put it nicely, let's just say that the Lakers were not the fastest team in the league.
Their starting line-up had no players, with the exception of Kobe, that could consistently drive to the basket. Shannon Brown was probably the second best at getting to the hole and he may be leaving.
The Lakers should look to their talented rookies and sophomores to help add speed to their game-day repertoire.
Young players are known for being fast, and this is no more true in players Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, and Trey Johnson.
These players are capable getting to the cup by blowing by their slower defenders.
The fact that Kobe was the leading scorer on the team and also the leader in assists is a serious problem for a title contender. The fact that Kobe lead the Lakers, but was thirty-first in the league didn't help things either.
This affected their play in the half-court that they use primarily to get their points.
Darius Morris is the answer to this problem. He has a passing ability beyond all of those currently on the Lakers roster. He is an old-school, pass-first style point guard that has an amazing court-vision.
He was one of the best point guards of the 2011 draft and I was shocked to see he was still available by the time the Lakers' 41st pick came along.
Trey Johnson is also good at play-making. We saw during the playoffs that Johnson can bring in buckets in many ways playing in the half-court.
The Lakers should take advantage of these two young play-makers and have them take on important roles on their roster.
The Lakers lacked big-time in athleticism last year. Besides Shannon Brown, the Lakers have no recognizeable athletic player in the starting line-up or the bench. After Brown, the most athletic player is probably Kobe Bryant who isn't all that athletic anymore.
In the last two years, the Lakers have drafted athletic players at nearly every position. Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris, Derrick Caracter, and Ater Majok are all exceptional athletes.
On fast-breaks, these players can light up the crowd with ferocious slams. These players could add many plays to he Lakers' highlight reels.
Young players have always been known for their hustle. They have the willingness because of their drive to make their name well-known.
The Lakers rookies from 2010 both demonstrate this well.
Derrick Caracter is a blocking machine and a monster on the glass. He makes sure his presence is known on every rebound opportunity.
Devin Ebanks is also known for his hustle. He is always diving for loose balls and trying to snag the rebound to set up the fast-break.
With these two players' contributions, the Lakers should be able to out-hustle their opponents.
The Lakers had some skilled shooters during the 2009-10 season in Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. Unfortunately, Farmar left the team that summer and signed with the New Jersey Nets.
The Lakers signed Steve Blake the soon after hoping he could fill the role Farmar left behind. So far, he hasn't proven he can.
Sasha Vijacic spent the first half of the season in 2010-11 as a bench-warmer and the team's personal chest-bumper. He was then traded to none other than the New Jersey Nets for future Lakers reserve Joe Smith.
The Lakers lost nearly all of the shooters in a year-and-a-half.
With Goudelock, Mojak, and Johnson, the Lakers may have the answer to their recent shooting woes.
Andrew Goudelock is known for his shooting and has enough range that the transition to the NBA three-point line will be easy for him.
Mojak is a skilled shooter for his position and has a chance to get better if he chooses to play overseas for the next year or two.
Trey Johnson is a good all-around offensive player and has a consistent three-point shot.
With these players in their grasp, the Lakers should have their shooting problems figured out.
If you add speed, hustle, and athleticism together, it equals more fast-breaks.
The Lakers were primarily a half-court offensive team and that needs to change if they want to get more chances at their opponent's hoop.
Ebanks and Morris are able to create more of these fast-breaks with the combination of both of their speed, Morris' passing, and Ebanks athleticism.
Can't you see more than a few alley-oops with these two players at the ends of the connection?
With these plays, the Lakers will have more opportunities to put points on the board and more wins on the record sheet.
Last season the Lakers had only one fully reliable scoring option last season: Kobe Bryant. Kobe has taken a lot of wear-and-tear on his body over the last 15 seasons, and the Lakers need a player that can carry the Lakers on the offensive end in the future.
Andrew Goudelock, Trey Johnson, and Devin Ebanks fill this void.
Andrew Goudelock has always been known for his scoring. He was one of the best shooters in the draft last year. He has almost unlimited range and can easily make the transition to the NBA three-point line.
He has proven to be clutch while playing for Charleston and can carry that over into the NBA.
Trey Johnson is a very similar player to Goudelock. He is offensive-minded and a good shooter. In the D-League, Johnson was one of the leading contenders for MVP. He can drive, and pull up from mid-range as we saw during the post-season.
Devin Ebanks is a good offensive player that can score points without the offense being focused on him. He can drive and pull up from mid-range and finishes well around the hoop. He has proven that he has a decent three-point shot and has plenty of time left in his career for him to work on that.
With Goudelock, Johnson, and Ebanks, the Lakers have three solid stars for the future.
Many say that one major thing missing from the Lakers last season compared to the two years prior was the drive to win. They were emotionally and physically tired after years and years of beating on their bodies.
One thing that didn't help was Phil Jackson's refusal to play his young, talented rookies.
Jackson had a vow that he would not play his rookies when his veterans were even semi-available. He knew that the Lakers are a franchise built on tradition and he wanted to add to that, not end it.
His stubbornness caused his veterans to lose that drive that carried them to their two championship wins.
Young players are notorious for bringing energy and the lust for winning to the basketball court.
With this added to the already talented Lakers roster, they should be able to make a strong title run in 2012.
The Lakers are an old team. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have both played 15 years in the NBA. Pau Gasol is no spring chicken having played 10 years. Lamar Odom and Ron Artest have both played for 12 years.
The Lakers core has slowly aged to the point where they can't win a title without the things young talent brings.
Youth is the most obvious thing missing from the Lakers latest championship run. Andrew Bynum is still young at the age of 23, but he is notorious for being injury prone.
These youthful Lakers player can be the salvation of this aging Lakers roster.
The Lakers need youth if they want to win another title.