What's Next for the Los Angeles Lakers?

w jContributor IJune 14, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 11:  Derek Fisher #2 and Trevor Ariza #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers react after defeating the Orlando Magic in Game Four of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 11, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Lakers won 99-91 in overtime.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

The Lakers sit on the eve of their 15th Championship.  Unlike Major League playoff competition, no team in the history of the NBA Finals has ever been down 3-1 and come back to win. 

Even the city of Los Angeles' unions are prematurely complaining about the victory parade.  With the 2009 NBA Championship practically in the Lakers' back pocket, readers must permit the indulgence of examining the post-playoffs Lakers...

1) Point guard

The Lakers' point guard position is the team's weak link.  Dereck Fisher's career and his last minute heroics will eventually sunset.  So the Lakers will transition to Farmar, Vujacic, or Brown?  Yikes! 

This troika has been exposed as erratic against the NBA's elite guards.  In the Finals the three players are averaging 20 minutes, 4.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 1.5 turnovers per game. 

At some point, the Lakers will have to consolidate responsibilities in a point guard who has a quick first step,  strength, a perimeter jump-shot, and protects the ball.  If the Lakers had excellent point guards, then Kobe would have more open shots. 

As it stands, Kobe impairs his productivity since he must be the originator of the Lakers' offense (more on this later).

2) Forward

Pau Gasol has been a workhorse, putting up 18.9 ppg/9.6 rpg/3.5 apg/57 percent fields goal percentage in the regular season and 19.8 ppg/7.8 rpg/2 apg/59% field goal percentage in the Finals. 

In contrast, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza have offset brilliant quarters with mediocre performances.  In the Finals, Ariza's averages of 10 ppg and 6.3 rpg on 34 percent field goal shooting, are accented by relatively poor games one and two. 

Odom is averaging a more respectable 12.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg on 58 percent field goal shooting off the bench in the Finals.  Still, his performances in games three and four were sub-par.  As a team, the Lakers would find easier shots if they could depend on a consistent double-double out of one player or the other. 

3) Center

Bynum has so far  proved unreliable.  He has had two major injuries in two years, which have  impeded his development as a player.  His level of conditioning and quickness are weak and cause him to commit fouls in order to defend Dwight Howard. 

The starting center is averaging 19:27 minute per game because of foul trouble in three of the four games.  As a result, he has only 6 ppg on 41 percent field goal shooting percentage and 4 rpg.  The Lakers may need to find a more reliable center.

4)  Shot selection

Kobe is the clearly the offensive force of the Lakers.  Two thirds of the Lakers' plays either end in Kobe shooting or passing the ball to the eventual shooter.  Routinely defenders collapse on Kobe. 

Kobe's successful shots are magnificent athletic and acrobatic achievements.  However, he only averages 43 percent field goal shooting percentage during this Finals.  It would be more desirable for the offense to diversify, thereby taking advantage of reliable shooters like Paul Gasol.  This modification will create open shot opportunities for Kobe. 

5) Defense

The Lakers need to perform defensively more frequently.  During the Finals, they have forced many turnovers, which has been a key differentiator.  Rebounding has been on par with Orlando: 156 to 155 for the series.

However, they closed too haphazardly on perimeter shooters in Game Two and have sagged to much on Dwight Howard.  Instead of flying around the court chasing the ball rotation, the Laker defenders need to deny the ball and chase shooters off of their favorite shooting spots.

When the Lakers make these improvements, Kobe's scowl may become Magic's grin.


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