The Los Angeles Lakers season ended in the exact same round of the playoffs that it did last season, and unless the team makes a dedicated effort to improve, they can expect the same results in the foreseeable future.
The Lakers in their current state are simply not talented or young enough to compete with the teams around them, and the Oklahoma City Thunder's decisive victory this season shattered the myth that only minor roster tweaks are needed to return them to postseason glory.
The Lakers thought they may have found their point guard of the future in Ramon Sessions, but a forgettable series against the Thunder may have altered that line of thought.
There were never any false perceptions about the Lakers' reserve unit since they were one of the NBA's worst during the regular season, and the same remained true during the Lakers' brief playoff run.
The true strength of this year's Lakers team was found in star guard Kobe Bryant and the interior duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and ironically in order for the team to improve, the big three of Kobe, Gasol and Bynum may have to be dissolved.
It's highly unlikely that the Lakers would try to trade or amnesty Bryant as some people have suggested, so the next logical step would be to look for a new home for one of the team's big men.
Both Gasol and Bynum suffered through subpar series against the Thunder. It was statistically the worst postseason performance of Gasol's career, but does that mean his time in a Lakers uniform has expired?
It's easy to draw that conclusion considering Bynum's emergence this season and Gasol's difficulty adjusting to head coach Mike Brown's new scheme, but it's hard to imagine that his game has regressed as much as the last two postseasons would suggest.
Gasol has been the victim of constant criticism for his postseason performances in general, and his refusal to shoot the ball in the closing seconds of Game 4 in particular
Many people, myself included, have theorized that Gasol has played himself into a situation where the Lakers have no choice but to try to deal him in the offseason, but is that really the Lakers best course of action?
Bynum's 18.7 points per game, 11.7 rebounds and 55.8 percent shooting from the field seem to indicate that Bynum has finally grown into the potential that the Lakers envisioned when they drafted him as a 17-year-old high-schooler from New Jersey.
The only thing is, Bynum also feels like he is finally a star, and he may not have the maturity to handle it.
Bynum has the size, strength and skill to be the NBA's most dominant interior player, but is that what he really wants?
On some nights Bynum seems unstoppable in the paint, but on others he can be so ineffective that you almost forget he's on the court.
Some people use Bynum's youth as an excuse for his actions, and while he is only 24, Bynum will be entering his eighth professional season next year, which is more than enough time in the league to shed his immaturity.
In a recent article in the O.C. Register, Bynum says he has every intention of staying in Los Angeles if the Lakers want him, but can the team win another championship with Bynum as the sole focus in the middle?
It's no secret that the Lakers were in the small group of teams bidding for the services of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, and it's hard to picture Howard putting up the same lack-luster numbers that Bynum did against theThunder's smaller front line.
Of course, the dream many Lakers fans had of acquiring Howard went up in smoke after he signed a one-year extension with Orlando, and those dreams may have taken another hit after recent events in Florida.
Yesterday, the Magic announced the firing of head coach Stan Van Gundy and the resignation of general manager Otis Smith, which would lead you to think that Howard pretty much holds the keys to Orlando's franchise.
But if we learned anything from the whole Howard saga that unfolded during the regular season, even when Howard's mind is made up he still really doesn't know what he wants to do.
So if the Lakers are presented with another opportunity to trade Bynum for Howard, will they let the future of the franchise slip through their fingers again?