Top 10 Priorities for the LA Lakers After NBA Lockout

Joshua SextonSenior Analyst IIAugust 15, 2011

Top 10 Priorities for the LA Lakers After NBA Lockout

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    This article will look at the top priorities the Los Angeles Lakers need to address once the lockout ends.

    The NBA lockout has unfortunately tapered all of the exciting offseason activity fans are accustomed to enjoying during the summer.  

    Lakers fans are in limbo, wondering what changes the team will make in hopes of improving from last season, which ended in disappointment.

    Here are 10 things on the Lakers’ to-do list once basketball activity resumes.

10. Find out What Was Eating Pau Gasol

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    One of the big questions heading into next season will be if Pau Gasol has snapped out of the funk he was in during the playoffs last spring.

    Gasol averaged 13 points in 10 playoff games, five points below his season average. Needless to say, Gasol’s mind wasn’t on basketball.

    Nobody will know until the season gets underway if Gasol is ready to focus on basketball again.

    But maybe Mike Brown, Kobe Bryant and Mitch Kupchak need to have a therapy session with him.

    If Gasol isn’t going to contribute as consistently as he has in the past, it could be a long season for the Lakers.

9. Decide Which Frontcourt Player(s) They Are Willing to Trade

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    Before the lockout became official, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were all linked to trade rumors.  Whether any of those rumors were true or not is unknown, but if the team is going to make a splash with a big trade, one of the three players will inevitably be traded.

    Once the lockout ends, management needs to clear the air a little more on which (if any) of their star frontcourt players they are willing to trade. Otherwise, all of the rumors could undermine performances on the court.

8. Maybe Tinker with the Starting Lineup?

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    Since Pau Gasol joined the the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008, the team has relied on Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Gasol as their primary staring lineup.

    One of my only criticisms of Phil Jackson was his rigidness with lineups and substitutions.

    Mike Brown will likely be more flexible when it comes to experimenting with different lineups, considering all of the pressure on his shoulders.

    Phil Jackson very seldom played Odom, Bynum and Gasol together.

    I know Odom coming off the bench has been the team’s biggest “X” factor, but I think it’s time to insert him into the starting lineup with Gasol and Bynum.

    Also, would anyone be opposed to Matt Barnes starting instead of Artest?

    It maybe time to shake things up. If this means benching proven starters (Fisher and Artest), it’s worth it, if the team’s overall production on the court improves.

7. Add More Depth to the Frontcourt

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    Assuming the team takes my advice, and places Lamar Odom in the starting lineup, they will need a reliable post player to backup Odom, Pau Gasol and/or Andrew Bynum.

    Even if Odom continues to be the team’s sixth man (and Gasol and Bynum’s backup), the team needs to add another reliable frontcourt player. In past seasons, Odom has spent as much time as a starter as a reserve, with Bynum missing so much time due to injury.

    When Odom was in the starting lineup, it left the team thin in the frontcourt, and Gasol was forced to play extended minutes at center.

6. Address Their Weakness at Small Forward

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    Outside of point guard, the Los Angeles Lakers are weakest at the small forward position.

    Ron Artest began showing his age last season, averaging a career low in points and rebounds (8.5 and 3.3). In addition, something seemed to be missing from his usual stellar defense.

    Artest’s two backups, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton, proved to have little impact last season. Due to injury and general lack of playing ability, Walton only averaged nine minutes a game.

    Barnes first season with the team was uneventful. Whether it was due to a reduction in minutes (his lowest since 2005-06) or a midseason knee injury, Barnes didn’t live up to expectations.

    So, what do the Lakers do at small forward? Do they demote Artest to the bench in favor of starting the younger, more athletic Barnes? Or, do they attempt to trade Artest and/or Barnes in favor of an overall better player?

5. What Will the Team Run on Offense?

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    Not only will Phil Jackson be absent from the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench next season, but his patented triangle offense likely won’t be part of the team’s plans going forward.

    The future of the team’s offense is one of the big question marks surrounding the hiring of Mike Brown. Everyone knows he is a great defensive basketball coach. But at this point, it’s a mystery what he is planning to do on offense.

    With a group of veterans anxious to prove their worth after last year’s playoff embarrassment, Brown needs to bring something to the table the team trusts as much as they did the triangle offense.

4. Who Is Going to Be Kobe Bryant's Backup?

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    Earlier in the offseason, Shannon Brown decided to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers and become a free agent.

    Brown has served as Kobe Brant’s primary backup since joining the Lakers in the middle of the 2009 season. With Brown likely leaving, the only option the team has to backup Kobe is Trey Johnson, and with him deciding to play in Italy during the lockout, there is no guarantee he will be back when play resumes.

    Therefore, the team has no real choice but to shop for a decent backup for Kobe.

3. Make Sure Mike Brown Is on the Same Page with the Players

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    The Los Angeles Lakers roster is filled with veterans who have won multiple championships. Mike Brown has never won a championship, more or less played in the NBA.

    This will be a big change, considering the man he is replacing. If Mike Brown is able to make a positive mark on the team early, the Lakers have a chance of contending for the title again.

    If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot of drama in Los Angeles next season, resulting in an underwhelming performance on the court.

2. Figure out Their Point Guard Woes

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    It’s becoming more and more evident the Los Angeles Lakers are going to have a difficult time winning another championship if they don’t shake things up at the point guard position.

    Derek Fisher is not getting any younger. Therefore, his game is not improving. His struggles on the defensive end have been one of the team’s biggest weaknesses recently. In addition, Fisher had his lowest point average since 2000, averaging six points a contest last season.

    Steve Blake, Fisher’s backup, disappointed in his first season with the Lakers. Blake averaged the least amount of points of his career (4.0), which only got worse once the playoffs started, when Blake’s average dipped from four to two points a game.

    The Lakers finished the season with the worst net production from the point guard position in the league, at -9.7 a contest.

    So, do the Lakers make a change at point guard? Or, do they hope Blake has a bounce-back season, playing in a new offense as the team’s starting point guard, with Fisher serving as the backup? This is the only scenario I see working for the Lakers if they don’t make a change.

1. Make Sure Andrew Bynum Remembers His Post-All-Star Break Defensive Focus

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    After a talk with Phil Jackson prior to last season’s All-Star break, Andrew Bynum started focusing his energies more on the defensive end of the court.

    In the 22 games after the break, the young center averaged 12 rebounds and over two blocks a game, compared to career averages of seven and one, respectively.

    Sparked by Bynum’s play, the team played their best basketball of the season, winning 17 of their first 18 games after the break.

    Also, Bynum played consistent basketball in the midst of the team’s playoff meltdown. In the team’s 10 playoff games, Bynum averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds.

    If Bynum picks up where he left off last season, and he is able to do it for an entire season, the Lakers will in great position to get back to the NBA Finals.