Some fans of the Los Angeles Lakers point to the team's weakness at the point guard position as one of the primary reasons for their disappointing failure in the 2011 NBA playoffs, but advocates of that theory should review recent Lakers history.
Lakers great Magic Johnson set the standard for how players should play the point guard position at the professional level, but the franchise has not had an elite player at that position since Magic retired—Gary Payton doesn't count.
Los Angeles has never found a lead guard that can fill Magic's shoes, but in all honesty, how does a team ever replace a player who is without question the greatest point guard ever to play the game, and is arguably the NBA's greatest player ever?
The short answer is you don't, but that hasn't diminished the team's success in Magic's absence.
The Lakers have still managed to win five NBA Championships without an elite point guard, and that little tidbit of knowledge is never really taken into consideration when debating who the Lakers should target in free agency.
The NBA lockout has prevented teams from making any moves in the offseason, but it hasn't stopped rumors from circulating. In the Lakers' case, much of the talk is centered on how active the team will be when it comes to the free-agency class of 2012.
The Lakers' loss in the 2011 postseason has created a subtle sense of panic in the franchise, and the promotion of Jim Buss and the hiring of Mike Brown to succeed Phil Jackson hasn't really helped the situation.
Brown's uptempo motion offense derives from strong point guard play, and it highlights the position in a way that the triangle offense never did.
In the triangle, a superior lead guard was not a necessity since the scheme made most players on the court interchangeable, but in Brown's schemes the point guard usually initiates the offense off the dribble.
The change in offensive philosophy for the Lakers does mean the team will need to upgrade the point guard position, but if the Lakers do choose to pursue an elite free-agent player from the vaunted class of 2012, it shouldn't be a lead guard.
Chris Paul or Deron Williams would both look great in a Lakers uniform and they would provide immediate short-term relief, but neither player is a long-term solution.
The Lakers are quickly approaching a period of transition as players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom reach the twilight of their careers, and if the team hopes to remain relevant in their wake, they will need to build from the inside out.
Even during Magic's era, the Lakers always had a dominant inside presence, and that has been the one constant during each of the team's title runs since 1980.
The only way the Lakers should pursue a high-profile point guard in free agency is if they truly believe center Andrew Bynum is the future of their post game. Given Bynum's history of injuries, that's a ridiculous assumption to make.
I have a feeling that once the NBA's work stoppage ends, the Lakers will make a big move if the new collective bargaining agreement allows it, but will it be a big move for next season or a defining move for the future?
Pursuing Paul or Williams in free agency will prove the Lakers are determined to upgrade the point guard position, but if Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak are serious about maintaining the franchise's relevance, they should shift their gaze to central Florida.