Kobe Bryant: Are He and the Lakers Worse With Andrew Bynum, Joe Smith?

Tom Kinslow@@TomKinslowFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2010

Kobe Bryant: Are He and the Lakers Worse With Andrew Bynum, Joe Smith?

0 of 11

    DENVER - NOVEMBER 11:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from the bench against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 118-112.  NOTE TO USER: User
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are once again one of the teams to beat in the NBA, and as the two-time defending champions push for another title, they'll do so with two new faces.

    Andrew Bynum, the oft-injured center, is back in the lineup after missing the start of the season with an injury and the Lakers just traded Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith, a journeyman who was most recently with New Jersey.

    Working new and returning players into a lineup is always a risky move because chemistry is such an important thing. So playing devil's advocate a bit, does the addition of these two players to the rotation make the Lakers better or does it hurt them slightly? Inside you'll find five reasons for each and a conclusion.

    Make sure to leave any thoughts or comments at the bottom.

No. 5 Worse: Worth A First Round Pick?

1 of 11

    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 12:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks walks to the bench as Al Horford #15 reacts after missing two free throws in the final seconds of their 90-86 loss to the Utah Jazz at Philips Arena on November 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    To get Joe Smith back from the Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers gave up their first round pick.

    Sure, that pick likely won't be worth much when the season is all said and done. But still, an aging Joe Smith is not worth a late first-round pick, nor is it worth two later round picks. To give up a first-round pick for what they got is reaching.

    I know the Lakers are built to win now, but it's still a dumb exchange.

No. 5 Fine: Bench Players

2 of 11

    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 10: Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers knocks the ball away from Omer Asik #3 of the Chicago Bulls as Matt Barnes #9 defends at the United Center on December 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 88-84. N
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It's not like the Lakers really changed the core structure of the team with this move.

    Vujacic wasn't seeing much playing time and neither was Smith in New Jersey. It's really just a swap of two players that won't see the court and it is more about what the deal does for the team off of the court than it does on it.

    The players just had to be thrown in to get the deal done. Joe Smith isn't exactly what you'd call a difference maker and neither is Vujacic. The picks are the center of the deal here.

No. 4 Worse: Older As A Team

3 of 11

    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the game with the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on November 9, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 99-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    So even though Sasha Vujacic wasn't exactly eating up minutes, he did have some fresh, youthful legs.

    Vujacic is 26 years old and one of the younger players on the team and, in return, the Lakers get Smith, who is 35 and on the downside of his career. Neither of them have played much this year, but is Smith's veteran presence really worth the trade?

    I would have hung on to Vujacic to play out some garbage minutes at the end of the year when guys need rest.

No. 4 Fine: Vujacic = Irrelevant

4 of 11

    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Portrait of Sasha Vujacic #18 of the Los Angeles Lakers before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center on November 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
    Harry How/Getty Images

    When you talk about Sasha Vujacic, you're talking about a guy who didn't really mean much to this team.

    For Los Angeles, Vujacic was a guy who had his role drastically changed from what it used to be and his minutes dwindled all the way down to almost nothing to where he could make any sort of impact for the team.

    Essentially, it's hard to get worse by swapping guys in a role where there is no impact at the moment.

No. 3 Worse: Joe Smith's Statline

5 of 11

    ATLANTA - JANUARY 06:  Joe Smith #32 of the Atlanta Hawks defends against Yi Jianlian #9 of the New Jersey Nets at Philips Arena on January 6, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or usin
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Bringing Joe Smith over really doesn't add much to the Lakers' roster.

    He's only played in four games for New Jersey this year and in those games he averaged less than a point and less than a rebound. I'm not exactly sure what the Lakers have in mind for him, but Sasha Vujacic averaged more points per game than Smith, even though it wasn't by much.

    Smith's not exactly what you'd call productive when he's on the court.

No. 3 Fine: Salary Flexibility

6 of 11

    DENVER - NOVEMBER 11:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from the bench against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 118-112.  NOTE TO USER: User
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    What the Lakers do get in this deal is some extra cash to work with.

    In trading Vujacic and getting Smith in return, Los Angeles gets eight or nine million dollars in salary and luxury tax money taken off the books, which can be used closer to the deadline if the Lakers want to make another move.

    Money is everything in the NBA and that wiggle room could be huge.

No. 2 Worse: Can You Rely on Bynum?

7 of 11

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers rebounds the ball in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How many times have we had to talk about an Andrew Bynum comeback?

    He's been hurt a bunch of times and, at this point, it just seems like he has chronic knee issues that will bother him for the rest of his career. That begs the question as to how much Los Angeles can rely on Bynum for production?

    If they lean on him and he crumbles again, it's going to be a huge blow to the Lakers yet again.

No. 2 Fine: Bigger In The Frontcourt

8 of 11

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Andrew Bynum #17 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers react in the second half while taking on the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    One thing that helped push the Lakers over the top in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics was their size, especially in the frontcourt.

    Kendrick Perkins went down and the Lakers destroyed the glass on both sides. They got extra possessions that proved vital down the stretch as Los Angeles clinched its second-straight NBA championship.

    Adding Bynum to the lineup is going to give Los Angeles even more of a dominating presence on the boards.

No 1 Worse: Rhythm

9 of 11

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball over Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expr
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Every team has a set rhythm and bringing players into a rotation when a team is clicking is always risky.

    Players have to adjust to the new roles and the new playing time. Games and teams have a certain flow and with Andrew Bynum back, it's going to mess up that flow as he gets more and more playing time off of the bench and eventually into a starting role.

    In the short term, this will be a small issue for the Lakers and, if he gets hurt again, Los Angeles will have to work the team back into the old roles it had.

No. 1 Fine: Less Strain On Odom and Gasol

10 of 11

    LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 13:  (L-R) Kobe Bryant #24, Ron Artest #15, Lamar Odom #7, Pau Gasol #16 and Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers watch from the bench during a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings at the Thomas & Mack Center October 13, 20
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The biggest forces in the frontcourt for the Lakers are Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

    These players aren't getting any younger and there's a lot of miles on those tires over the past two seasons. Having Bynum back in the lineup gives Los Angeles a player that can allow the Lakers to rest those two players at times down the stretch.

    They'll need that rest come playoff time when they'll have to play extended minutes.

Conclusion

11 of 11

    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 10: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for a dunk against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    In the end, the return of Bynum will only bother the Lakers in the short term as the team adjusts to his presence in the rotation. However, for a veteran team like Los Angeles, that shouldn't be much of an issue.

    The biggest concern comes in relying on him down the stretch for a contribution when he has a history of getting hurt. As far as Joe Smith goes, I don't know why they want a journeyman frontcourt player who's at the end of his career. It doesn't make them worse off of the bench, but I personally like to keep youth over age if things are even, which in this case they are.

    The Lakers do get Golden State's second-round pick back while giving up their first, so the slots won't be too much different. But a first-round pick is a better trading chip than what they got back from New Jersey.

    When it's all said and done, though, the Lakers will be just fine.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!