NBA Trade Rumors: 10 Biggest Questions Facing The Los Angeles Lakers

Drake Oz@drakeozbrSenior Writer IIFebruary 10, 2011

NBA Trade Rumors: 10 Biggest Questions Facing The Los Angeles Lakers

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    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 Los Angeles Lakers are feeling the heat.

    No, not the Miami Heat, but the heat the NBA's best teams feel when they aren't playing quite like they should be.

    Phil Jackson's crew is currently slated as the No. 3 team in the Western Conference playoffs, but after a seven-game winning streak in January, the Lakers are barely above .500 at just 6-5.

    So just what's wrong with LA? And what are the team's top concerns moving forward?

    Well, let's take a look at the 10 biggest questions facing the Lakers.

10. Do The Lakers Need More Frontcourt Depth?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25:   Pau Gasol (L) #16 and Andrew Bynum (R) #17 the Los Angeles Lakers tie up Paul Millsap (center) #24 of the Utah Jazz in the first half at Staples Center on January 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expr
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Lakers' frontcourt is largely a three-man show with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom taking up the majority of the minutes at forward and center.

    No other LA big man plays more than 8.4 minutes per game (Theo Ratliff), scores more than 2.9 points per game (Devin Ebanks) or grabs more than 1.8 rebounds per game (Joe Smith).

    That's partly because of how well the "big three" play, but another injury to one of them, like Bynum, would give the Lakers some serious frontcourt issues.

    Los Angeles should definitely consider adding another big man, some way, somehow.

9. Is Trading Andrew Bynum For Carmelo Anthony a Smart Decision?

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    DENVER, CO - JANUARY 21:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets looks on during a break in the action against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center on January 21, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 107-97. NOTE TO USER: Use
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    If and only if Carmelo Anthony is willing to sign an extension, then a potential Anthony for Andew Bynum swap might be worth it.

    I say might because young, quality centers are a lot harder to come by than scoring small forwards who struggle on the defensive end.

    Clearly, the Lakers' offense would be hard to stop with Anthony playing next to Kobe Bryant, but how much would Los Angeles have to give up for the Denver Nuggets star?

    If it's Bynum and Ron Artest, Bynum and Lamar Odom or even Bynum and Shannon Brown, that's too steep a price for Anthony, especially if he's a short-term rental. 

8. Are The Lakers Too Old?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 03:  Pau Gasol #16, Andrew Bynum #17, Kobe Bryant #24 and Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers head to the bench after a time out trailing the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at Staples Center on February 3, 2011 i
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The average age of the 14 players listed on the Lakers roster is 29.5 years old.

    And here are the ages of some of the team's key players.

    Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Pau Gasol: 30

    Lamar Odom and Ron Artest: 31

    Kobe Bryant: 32

    Derek Fisher: 36

    As evidenced by the Boston Celtics and the Lakers themselves, sometimes age doesn't matter.

    But at some point, it will. And that time could be approaching for the Lakers. 

7. Can The Lakers Stay Afloat If Another Major Injury Occurs?

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    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

    The Lakers stayed on course playing without Andrew Bynum for the first 27 games of the season, going 20-7 before Bynum's return.

    But they were a bit streaky during that span, with an eight-game winning streak, a five-game winning streak and a four-game losing streak.

    The question remains, however, of how an extended layoff from not just Bynum but any star might affect the team's play.

    What if Pau Gasol misses 10 games? What if Lamar Odom is out for the first round of the playoffs?

    The Lakers have weathered this type of storm in the past, but there's always that chance the ship sinks this time around.

6. Can They Beat The San Antonio Spurs?

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    SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 23: Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts with Tim Duncan #21 and Manu Ginobili #20 against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 23, 20
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Everyone expected the San Antonio Spurs to be a playoff team this season.

    But this good? I don't think so.

    The Spurs are 44-8 overall, 19-6 on the road and 25-2 at home, all three of which are tops in the NBA.

    San Antonio is also 2-0 against the Lakers this season, though one win came on a last-second tip-in.

    But still, the Spurs have been the best team in the NBA throughout the entire 2010-11 season.

    Can anyone take them down?

5. Should The Lakers Start Worrying About Their Future?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 09:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers complains to  referee Tony Brown as Shannon Brown #12 in tries to intervene in the game against the New York Knicks at Staples Center on January 9, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    As you already know, the Lakers are one of the older teams in the league.

    In turn, that makes the team's future more than just a little bit cloudy.

    Shannon Brown, 25, and a healthy Andrew Bynum, 23, are two very solid building blocks for the future, but the only other players under 30 years old are Derrick Caracter, 22, and Devin Ebanks, 21.

    Sure, those guys could develop into quality NBA players, but neither has the makings of a potential superstar.

    Though the Lakers seem to be incredibly concerned about their current roster, they might want to think about the team's future, too.

4. Is Kobe Bryant's Career Almost Over?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 30:  Kobe Bryant #24  of the Los Angeles Lakers argues a call against the Boston Celtics in the second half at Staples Center on January 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Celtics defeated the Lakers 109-96.  (Photo by Jeff
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    A typical 32-year-old in the NBA would have maybe 10 or 11 years of experience, but Kobe Bryant is in his 15th NBA season.

    And that's 15 years of some hard-fought battles.

    Bryant has played in 1,073 career regular season games, in addition to 198 career playoff games and a number of games with Team USA.

    His engine has more mileage than any 32-year-old in league history.

    You have to wonder when it's going to run out of gas. 

3. Is Ron Artest Hurting The Team's Chances Of Winning Another Title?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 03:  Ron Artest #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts on defense after a San Antonio Spurs basket during a 89-88 Spur win at Staples Center on February 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Unless you're Ron Artest's No. 1 fan, the only answer to that question is "absolutely."

    After a successful first season in Los Angeles, Artest is undoubtedly having his worst season as a pro. 

    During the 2010-11 campaign, Artest is averaging career lows in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He is also averaging his fourth-worst field goal percentage and his second-lowest free throw percentage.

    He's also taken a step back on defense. Once the league's most feared defender (but still a good one), Artest simply hasn't been the lockdown defender the Lakers need him to be.

    And if he isn't, then his main value to the team simply isn't there.

2. Can Kobe Bryant Stay Healthy?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 03:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to his defense during a stop in play against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at Staples Center on February 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Kobe Bryant has the most important knee maybe in the history of sports.

    If his surgically-repaired knee can't hold up through the regular season and the playoffs, then the Lakers' chances of winning a title don't just decrease; they go away completely.

    But unless you're Ms. Cleo, you simply don't have any idea what'll happen to Bryant, his knee or his overall health.

1. Can They Win an NBA Title With Their Current Roster?

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    PHOENIX - MAY 29:  Ron Artest #37, Kobe Bryant #24, Lamar Odom #7 and Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate a play against the Phoenix Suns in the third quarter of Game Six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    With the way LA has been playing as of late, the hot topic of debate among NBA analysts is whether the Lakers can win another title with their current roster.

    The short answer is obvious: Yes.

    Except for a few changes no one will ever blame the team's struggles on, like Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, the 2010-11 Lakers have the same team that won the 2010 NBA Finals.

    Of course, this is this season and that was last season.

    But the Lakers' return all the key pieces that led them to an NBA title less than a year ago, so this is indeed a roster that can get it done.


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