While the loss to the Dallas Mavericks was certainly a tough pill to swallow, it will hopefully serve as an eye-opener. The Lakers cannot gamble on being stagnant and merely hoping to win more championships based on past accomplishments.
Here are five areas the Lakers need to improve the most.
The Los Angeles Lakers have one of the best front courts in basketball with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom manning the ship.
The team uses Gasol and Bynum as their primary starters, with Odom serving as the backup for the two seven-footers.
The Lakers have relied on players such as Joe Smith, Theo Ratliff, D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell as their “last resort” big men the last couple of seasons in the event Gasol, Odom and/or Bynum had to miss any games.
Because of injury and/or general lack of playing ability, these players proved to be largely ineffective.
This left Gasol playing extended minutes at the center position in both 2009 and 2010, when Bynum was out nursing his knee injuries.
After the Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the conference semifinals last spring, one of the major criticisms of the team was their lack of athleticism.
I tend to agree with this assessment—especially concerning the team’s perimeter players.
Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher aren’t getting any younger (although I think Kobe has more left in the tank than people think).
Therefore, the Lakers could definitely use some athletic, youthful legs on the perimeter, especially with young teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies emerging as potential Western Conference powerhouses.
In 2010-11, the Los Angeles Lakers ranked 17th in the league in three-point percentage and 14th in three-pointers attempted. At first glance, one would think this was very mediocre, but not necessarily bad.
But remember, the Lakers have one of the most formidable front courts in the league, and the team doesn't have a player who is considered a “true” three-point shooter.
If the Lakers are going to continue to shoot unwarranted three-pointers, they should at least look into signing players who would justify doing so.
The point guard position has been the proverbial elephant in the room for the Los Angeles Lakers for a number of years now.
Despite his history of clutch playoff performances, Derek Fisher has received his fair share of criticism for his inability to stay in front of quicker, more athletic point guards on defense.
In addition to his shaky defense, Fisher had his lowest point average last season (6.8) since 1999-2000. Fisher’s history working in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense likely kept him in the starting lineup longer than he would have in different situations.
After winning the championship in 2010, the Lakers signed Steve Blake. The signing of Blake was supposed to quell some of the team’s point guard troubles. But Blake had a very disappointing first season with the Lakers.
Blake had arguably his worst season as a professional, averaging a career low in points (4.0) and shooting 35 percent from the field—his lowest shooting percentage since 2004-05.
Things only got worse for Blake in the postseason. His shooting percentage dropped from 35 percent to 30, and his point average dipped from four to two.
Unfortunately, the Lakers have just as many question marks at the point guard position as they ever have.
Once considered to be one of the team’s biggest advantages, the Lakers bench proved to a weakness in 2010-11.
The team’s bench ranked 20th in field goals made and 18th in total offense.
The Lakers bench was outscored by the Mavericks bench by an average of 27 points a game during their playoff series last spring.
Aside from Lamar Odom winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award, the Laker bench bench failed to live up to expectations last season.
After an encouraging start to the season, in which he averaged 11 points a game for the month of November, Shannon Brown failed to maintain his momentum as the season progressed.
In his first season with the Lakers, Matt Barnes struggled to find his niche. Barnes only averaged 19 minutes a game, his lowest average since the 2005-06 season.
Also, it never seemed as though Barnes fully recovered from his midseason knee injury, which sidelined him for three months.
Add in the aforementioned struggles of Steve Blake, and it’s easy to see why the team’s bench had an underwhelming season.