This article will look at how the Los Angeles Lakers’ current roster looks and how it could change before the team plays its first game on Christmas Day.
Despite their ugly performance in last season’s playoffs, the Lakers have a roster filled with talent. But having talent and being championship-worthy are two different animals.
In order to get back to the championship form the team exhibited in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers will need to make a couple of changes to their roster.
Let’s take a look at what the Lakers’ 2011-12 roster could potentially look like.
Shannon Brown: After two-and-a-half seasons of providing nothing much more than spectacular dunks, Shannon Brown opted to become a free agent at the end of last season.
Joe Smith: After Theo Ratliff suffered a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of last season, veteran forward Joe Smith was brought in as an emergency backup big man.
Theo Ratliff: Theo Ratliff was supposed to be the stellar backup big man the Lakers have sorely been lacking the last few seasons. But thanks to a season-ending knee injury, Ratliff only played in a handful of games.
Ratliff's injury, combined with Andrew Bynum recovering from offseason knee surgery, left Pau Gasol playing too many minutes at the center position.
The team is still very much in need of a quality backup for Gasol and Bynum.
Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris were selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of last summer’s draft. The two rooks will likely get more of a chance to prove themselves this season than they would have in the past.
Phil Jackson was a staunch believer in rookies getting very little, if any, playing time at all.
If Goudelock and Morris, along with second-year players Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, are given more of a chance to shine in 2011-12, the team’s core of youngsters could provide some much-needed youth to a roster filled with aging veterans.
Outside of Lamar Odom, the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench was a huge disappointment last season after being considered one of the team’s strengths in past years.
Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Luke Walton, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter provided fans very little to cheer about last season.
But the lion’s share of the blame goes to Brown, Blake and Barnes. Walton, Caracter and Ebanks didn’t play enough minutes to be blamed too much.
Expected to improve the team's second unit after their respective signings in the summer of 2010, Blake and Barnes failed to live up to expectations. Blake had his lowest scoring average and shooting percentage since the 2004-05 season.
Thanks to a cut in minutes (his lowest since 2007-08) and a midseason knee injury, the scrappy Barnes never found a rhythm in Phil Jackson’s rotation.
I am a firm believer Ron Artest peaked as a Laker during the 2010 postseason. Last season, Artest had his worst season as a professional, averaging career lows in points and rebounds, in addition to his stellar defense starting to show signs of weakness.
The team may decide to use the amnesty clause on Artest, which is essentially a one-time opportunity for teams to rid themselves of bad contracts.
I don’t know if I speak for all Lakers fans, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over Artest’s departure.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been criticized for their poor point guard play since Hector was a pup (there is the first post-lockout Chick-ism for all of us Lakers fans).
There is no question the team needs a new starting point guard. But given the underwhelming free-agent class, the team may have to get lucky with another team using the amnesty clause on the right player (maybe Cleveland with Baron Davis) or make a trade.
If not, Lakers fans may be forced to hold their breath with D-Fish as the starting PG for another season.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is currently the team’s best bench player and biggest trade chip. Therefore, if the team is planning to make a splash with a big trade before its first game, Odom will likely be the player changing teams.
It would be very tough to see Lamar leave the Lakers, but it wouldn’t be as tough if it meant the team was able to trade him for a star player able to fill a major void (i.e. bringing in Monta Ellis as point guard).
In case everyone forgot during the long lockout, the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest strength is still their frontcourt, manned by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Yes, Gasol was nonexistent during last season’s playoffs, failing to reach his regular-season scoring average one time in 10 playoff games.
But all of the criticism may be exaggerated. I am fully confident Gasol will bounce back and remind everyone why he has largely been considered the game’s top power forward since joining the Lakers in 2008.
Andrew Bynum played the best basketball of his young career after the All-Star break last season. In the 22 games after the break, Bynum averaged 12 rebounds and more than two blocks a game as the team won 17 of its first 18 games.
As scary as it may sound for the rest of the league, I don’t believe Gasol and Bynum have played their best basketball together. If the two can remain injury free, this could be the season Bynum and Gasol start drawing comparisons to David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Fans should make an effort to watch Kobe Bryant as many times as possible throughout the 2011-12 campaign, considering it will likely be his last season as one of the league’s top five players.
Now the big question is whether Kobe has another championship in him.
For a detailed article on the team’s five biggest needs heading into the new season, read my article from yesterday. But here is the list of needs, accompanied with a player who could potentially fill each respective void.
Backup center for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum: Jeff Foster
Jeff Foster is the perfect backup big man to have playing behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The 12-year veteran has spent his entire career with the Indiana Pacers.
But unlike past backup centers the team has boasted—I am looking at you, D.J. Mbenga and Joe Smith—Foster could hold his own on the court if thrust into action.
Point guard play: Baron Davis
Assuming the Cleveland Cavaliers use their amnesty on Baron Davis, which is rumored to be the case, the Lakers should make run at the UCLA alum.
Baron hasn’t been very committed to his craft as of late, but at this point the Lakers need any kind of an upgrade at the position they can get.
Outside shooting: Jason Richardson
Jason Richardson surely wouldn’t help the team’s cause for getting younger, but he would surely improve the team’s outside shooting woes.
Derek Fisher was the only Laker who shot 40 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Lack of youth and athleticism
I am still a fan of the team developing its in-house talent into possible rotation mainstays.
Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter will hopefully get a chance to prove their worth in Mike Brown’s new scheme.