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