Following the Los Angeles Lakers' drubbing to the Dallas Mavericks to end their season, people remain cynical about the Lakers' future. Though I believe that next year probably won't be the title year, I do think that there are some moves and deals the Lakers can make to remain in contention for at least the next year, and get themselves in a better position for what will likely be a painful rebuilding process a few years from now.
Andrew Bynum clearly isn't where it's at for the Lakers, as he is a wretched defender, continually gets into foul trouble and takes a close second to Greg Oden in the hurt knees department. And he's probably not getting any better. So the Lakers should trade him in order to free up cap room to buy a better center or other free agent. In exchange, they should ask for 1-2 decent draft picks (hopefully lotto) that will come in handy for the re-building that will have to happen in a few years when Kobe hangs up his sneakers.
I know the hot topic is getting Howard, but the Lakers may not have cap for that under the new CBA, and he could end up in Chicago or New York or some other place. Tyson Chandler is a free agent this year, coming off a 2010 World Championship and an NBA title. Though he doesn't score as much as Bynum, he makes up for it with rebounds, blocks, accuracy and tenacious defense. Also, a little hometown pride comes into play here, as Chandler is from Compton.
Since the Lakers already have solid scorers, they should be looking for a defensive-minded center on the lines of Chandler, Samuel Dalembert or or Marc Gasol, all of whom are free agents this season. Any of these moves would be easier to execute if the deal in the previous slide is made.
When watching basketball, one of the things I've noticed is that almost every team nowadays has a guy that can come off the bench and hit three-pointers, someone like J.J. Barea or Goran Dragic. We used to have Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown to do it. Perhaps Mike Brown can light a fire under Shannon Brown and get him to hit threes again. If not, the Lakers would be well advised to let Shannon go (he's an unrestricted free agent) and match the qualifying offers of either Arron Afflolo or Daequan Cook. Both Cook and Afflolo play the two guard position and could provide minutes that would allow Kobe's injured body to spend more time at the bench or playing the black hole that is the three spot.
When the Lakers hired Mike Brown as coach, everybody thought that was a bad idea because Kobe Bryant wanted his former. I'm glad that Jim Buss didn't listen to the gripe. Folks, Kobe will only be good for one or two more seasons, and if Brown is going to have longevity with the team, he will coach a Kobe-less Lakers. In addition, the griping point may be rendered moot, as Kobe has somewhat grown out of it.
Kobe is not the only veteran player the Lakers have on their roster. They also have a point guard who has won several more championships than Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd combined. A guy who brings the veteran know-how and tenacity that doesn't show up on the stat sheet and who's a class act. So don't let him rot in ignominy on some other team's bench. Keep him around to mentor the new talent the Lakers have to get to stay competitive.
Some of you will dismiss this as lunacy, noting that Kupchak has been one of the better GMs of the past few years. After all, he DID pull off the Gasol trade. But Kupchak's prowess appears to be signing and dealing rather than drafting, when the CBA and Kobe's age will necessitate a good Laker team built mostly on drafting. Kupchak has traded away many draft picks for veteran talent.
The one time he has a good draft pick, he picks up Andrew Bynum (NBA All-Stars Danny Granger and David Lee were selected after Bynum in that Draft). When he could've traded Bynum for Jason Kidd, he didn't do it. Also, he traded away Caron Butler for Kwame Brown, a move that didn't really work out for the Lakers, and traded away a pick used to draft Rajon Rondo. Finally, now that Jim is driving the Bus(s), it appears that the ownership may be a little more hostile to Mitch. So he's in a got-to-go situation