Los Angeles Lakers' 5 Biggest Needs for Upcoming 2011-12 NBA Season
Now that the ugly labor mess is finally being settled, it’s time for the Lakers to start looking at what they need most heading into the new season.
Here are the five biggest needs the team needs to address before squaring off with the Bulls on Christmas.
5. Frontcourt Depth
Yes, the Lakers are still stacked in the frontcourt with the likes of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. But outside of those three, the team is perilously thin in the paint.
This lack of depth has been exposed the last few seasons, thanks to Bynum missing so much time with his various injuries. When Bynum was out, Odom became the team’s starting power forward, and Gasol was forced into playing extended minutes at the center position. This was fine, except the team didn’t have a quality backup for either Gasol or Odom.
The Lakers need to find a quality, veteran frontcourt player who wouldn’t mind taking a cut in minutes, in order to provide backup for what is still the league’s best frontcourt.
4. A Little More Youth and Athleticism
There is no reason for the Los Angeles Lakers to panic and blow up their veteran-heavy roster. But, considering two of the Western Conference’s best teams, Memphis and Oklahoma City, are brimming with young talent, it wouldn’t hurt the Lakers to add a couple of younger, more athletic players to their roster.
If the Lakers do choose to make their roster a little more youthful, they could test the free agent waters, make a trade or develop their own rookies, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.
Phil Jackson was famous for not giving his rookies many minutes. But with Mike Brown in town running a new offensive scheme, the rookies may have more of a chance to blossom than they would have under the Zen Master.
3. Quality Three-Point Shooting
Last season the Los Angeles Lakers averaged 18 three-point field goal attempts a game, connecting on 35 percent of those attempts.
Hey, not so bad, right? Wrong!
Yes, on paper the Lakers were a very average three-point shooting team last season. But when you take into consideration their huge advantage in the frontcourt, the 18 three-point attempts per game is truly inexcusable.
Three-point shooting, and outside shooting overall for that matter, has been a weakness for the team the last couple of seasons. Steve Blake was signed in the summer of 2010, in hopes of helping the outside shooting woes. But the former Maryland Terrapin failed to live up to expectations, as he shot his lowest percentage from the field since the 2004-05 season.
It has been hard to watch the team shoot so many hasty, ill-advised three-point shots the last couple of seasons. It’s time they fight the urge to do so. Or, sign a player who justifies doing so.
2. A Stellar Backup for Kobe Bryant
Shortly after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs last spring, Shannon Brown decided not to exercise the option in his contract to remain with the team, deciding to become a free agent.
Which means the team is currently without a backup for Kobe Bryant.
And while I am the first to admit it’s going to be tough watching Brown throw down those nasty dunks of his wearing colors other than purple and gold, his overall contribution to the team will not be missed nearly as much.
In his two and a half seasons with the team, Brown never seemed to find his real comfort level, despite showing flashes of brilliance. In his stint with the team, Brown averaged six points a contest.
This is the opportunity for the Lakers to find a more consistent, experienced backup for Bryant. Not only would a more consistent backup provide more rest for Bryant’s aging body, but fans wouldn’t be on pins and needles when number 24 goes to the pine for a quick rest.
1. A Change at Point Guard
Since Nick Van Exel left the team prior to the 1998-1999 season, the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest weakness has been point guard play. Derek Fisher has been the team’s starting point guard since his return to Los Angeles in 2007.
And while D-Fish will always hold a special place in the hearts of Lakers fans for his clutch play and toughness throughout the years, it’s becoming tiresome watching nearly every point guard in the league blow past him on the defensive end of the court.
Can the Lakers be a top-three team in the Western Conference with Fisher as their starting point guard? Probably. Can they win another championship? Probably not.
It should be a top priority of Jim and Jerry Buss when free agency begins to find a quality starting point guard.
There have been rumors of the Lakers being interested in Los Angeles native Baron Davis. (In addition to having Jamaal Tinsley currently signed to the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the team’s D-League affiliate).
Unfortunately, Davis is better known his filmmaking abilities and underwhelming effort on the basketball court the last few seasons. But we all know what he can do when motivated. Remember the 2006-07 season and postseason?
With rookie Darius Morris still too young and inexperienced to lead a veteran-laden team to a title, it’s definitely worth taking a risk on Davis now, to ensure the team’s in the hunt come this spring.