L.A. Lakers: Do They Need to Add a Star to Win Another Ring?
There has been plenty of speculation concerning what moves the Los Angeles Lakers might attempt to right the ship. Something needs to be done in the wake of an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
Three moves by the Lakers in the aftermath of their epic failure in the 2011 NBA Playoffs provide a little insight into what direction the franchise might take in the future.
The first was the decision to promote Jim Buss to team president. That move directly led to the Lakers' second major move, which was to hire former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown to succeed the retiring Phil Jackson.
It was widely assumed that Jackson's top assistant, Brian Shaw, would inherit the Lakers head coaching position once Jackson stepped down, but apparently the younger Buss had other plans.
Buss' decision signaled a clear break from Jackson and his triangular theories, and it also forced the aging Lakers to adapt to an entirely new coaching philosophy.
Brown's up-tempo motion offense is a departure from Jackson's sometimes stationary triangle offense, but in the Lakers' case, does different necessarily mean better?
In order for the Lakers to prosper in Brown's dribble-drive scheme, a point guard who can penetrate and get to the rim or dish off the dribble is essential. That need may explain the Lakers selecting Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock with their first two picks of the 2011 NBA draft.
Whenever the current NBA lockout ends, there is little to no chance either Goudelock or Morris will be prepared to start, and that means the Lakers face the prospect of starting the season with Derek Fisher and Steve Blake as their primary ball-handlers.
If the Lakers are forced to depend on either Fisher or Blake to lead them next season, they may as well give up on any thoughts of finding redemption in the 2012 playoffs.
Fisher will always occupy a place in the hearts of Lakers fans, but that doesn't erase a reality that says he looked old last season in Jackson's deliberate offense. Imagine how Fisher will look playing at a faster pace.
It's not a pretty thought, and I'm not sure, based on last season, Blake can fare any better.
Some observers are of the opinion that Blake can thrive in an up-tempo style, but that cannot hide the fact that he struggles defensively against bigger, quicker and more athletic point guards.
The Lakers' dire situation at point guard suggests that if the Lakers are active whenever the league's labor impasse ends, the logical addition will be a lead guard. But do the Lakers need a star player at the position?
It's no secret that when play finally does resume, the Lakers will be one of the NBA's oldest teams. But don't let the wheelchairs fool you; the Lake Show is still loaded with talent.
The Lakers core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum is still one of the NBA's best, and the team does have some youth to build on in players such as Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter, Goudelock and Morris.
Despite the Lakers' loss to the Mavericks, it's not a stretch to think the Lakers could reach the NBA Finals again with the nucleus of their team intact. Maybe the Lakers should pass on adding a star in the immediate future—unless, of course, that player is Dwight Howard.
Buss and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak may be tempted to cast their ballot in the upcoming Chris Paul and Deron Williams sweepstakes, but in all honesty a player like Kirk Hinrich could still help the Lakers reach next season's finals.
The Lakers should save themselves the money and the trouble of pursuing a high-profile point guard, but that line of thought goes out the window if Howard is available because he fits the model the Lakers have used to remain relevant throughout the years.
Howard would continue the Lakers tradition of dominant post players, and it makes much more sense to build a team from the inside out.
Great point guards have never won championships without great post players, and unless Buss really believes that Bynum is the Lakers' future in the paint, they will have to eventually address that situation.
However, there is little chance that the Lakers would be able to acquire both an elite point guard and Howard. Why risk a shot at Howard when a mid-level talent at point guard would address the team's immediate needs?
The Lakers are a playoff team right now and a solid contender to reach the finals if they do manage to upgrade the lead guard position, and they don't need a star player to do it.
However, if that star player happens to be Howard, then the Lakers should ignore conventional wisdom, because Howard is the type of talent that defies making deals based on need.
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