Everyone knows and talks about the “Big 3″ of Miami, but what about the “Big 3″ of the Lakers? Think about it: Kobe is a top 2 SG, Pau is a top 5 PF, and Bynum is a top 2 C in the league. Put that all together and you’d think you’d have a Championship contender, right? A lethal scorer surrounded by what could be the most skilled starting front court in the league? Unfortunately for L.A. that’s not enough in the Wild West as they were taken care of quite easily by the OKC Thunder in 5 games.
Obviously, Pau and Bynum have not played like top 5 big men in playoffs the last couple years. So what now? One thing is for sure: change needs to happen.
****ing basketball reasons…
You can blame Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers front office for not making a move earlier or surrounding the team with better assets, but we all know “basketball reasons” spurned their first attempt. I’m not here to dwell on that because the Lakers need to adapt to the situation and try and fix this mess. The problem is that it’s not going to be easy at all. They’ve dug themselves into financial trouble and the value of their two big men plummeted after this year’s playoffs.
This year proved that Kobe is still Kobe. He continues to play and score at a very high rate regardless of his age (33). He’s still got a couple more years for the Lakers to build around him, but they need to find teammates that he can trust.
Interesting stat: In the last 5 games the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs, Kobe has averaged 0.8 assists a game. That’s 4 assists in those 5 games combined! Yikes! Clearly he can’t do it all by himself. He needs to be able to trust his teammates in these situations. For a guy to have the ball as much as him and average that little of assists is absurd.
That being said, he’s still the cornerstone of the franchise and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But there’s no question he needs to be more of a facilitator. In order to do that, understandably, he needs teammates that are going to be more aggressive and effective.
Gasol has been criticized on and off for being soft his entire career. Well he sure put that debate to rest during this postseason. And I don’t mean that in a good way. He’s soft! Although he rebounded decently, he didn’t establish himself in the post at all and was physically outmatched by Serge Ibaka. It was frustrating to watch him be so unassertive.
No doubt Pau is very talented, but has he reached his peak? He is 31 years old and has been in the league for quite some time. I’d say it’s definitely time to part ways with the Lakers, but who wants that $19 million a year contract? Hopefully the Rockets still want him, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to give Kyle Lowry up for him (only player worth serious value to the Lakers). Otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Timberwolves tried teaming Rubio and Gasol up even though they already have Kevin Love.
The best move for the Lakers…brace yourself…might be to amnesty clause Pau. I know it’s radical, but clearly there needs to be a change and . They probably won’t even consider this, but it would clear up cap space to build around Kobe and Bynum and would allow for more flexibility with all of their luxury tax issues. If they can’t find a reasonable suitor for a trade, then setting Pau and his massive contract free could be a decent option.
During the regular season, I was seriously beginning to think that Bynum had overtaken Dwight Howard as the best center in the league. I was very impressed with his low-post moves and how he was able to utilize his exceptional size and touch around the basket. Although he is more skilled, I realize that his was a bit overzealous and that he’s not quite as enforcing as Dwight. But, I really though he’d taken the next step to helping the Lakers get back to prominence in the Western Conference.
Then, his attitude started kicking in. I understand that he’s just 24, but he’s been in the league for 7 years now! He’s not that 17 year old kid who was the youngest player ever drafted anymore. He needs to grow up. The Lakers need to find someone to mentor him and his ego. The guy is a tremendous talent and the best center in the West. If they can get his attitude and demeanor under control, he could become a dominant force in the NBA.
The playoffs was the same story. A very inconsistent effort culminated with an embarrassing 10 pt, 4 reb. performance in Game 5 capped off Bynum’s 2012 playoffs. His attitude problems looked to be on display again when things were going poorly. I don’t think it’s something to panic about because there is no better option in the West, but it’s something that the Lakers must address thoroughly in the off-season.
It’s definitely not time to let him go unless they can somehow swap him with Dwight Howard. After this postseason, however, that isn’t going to be anything the Magic and going to be looking at very seriously. For now, the Lakers need to continue to work with Bynum to get him to reach his full potential. At just 24 years old, there still is time. But it’s running out, especially with Kobe not getting any younger.
The Point Guards
I definitely felt like picking up Ramon Sessions was a very solid move by the Lakers and thought he’d be a perfect fit with the team. But he’s never been a consistent starting point guard in the NBA and it showed once he joined the Lakers. He’s solid and provides good scoring on occasion, but he really isn’t that much of an upgrade from Derek Fisher. If anything, I figured Steve Blake would be the one to go instead of the Lakers leader in Fisher.
Clearly Sessions wasn’t the answer as Russell Westbrook continued to expose the lack of a solid point guard on the Lakers. Once again, I’m sure Kupchak and the rest of the front office are shaking their heads and cursing “basketball reasons” knowing that Chris Paul could be on their team.
As of now, the Lakers are going to have to continue to roll with Sessions at the point unless he decides to opt out and become a free agent. He’s a decent temporary fix, but he’s far from the elite point guard CP3 would have been for the Lakers or a PG that can lead them over the Thunder or Spurs in the West.
Metta World Peace is a very good defender and can be a surprisingly streaky shooter at times, but he’s really not a very efficient player overall. I don’t think I need to get into his emotional problems, too.
After that, the Lakers have arguably a worse bench than the Miami Heat (believe it or not). A total of 5 points from the bench in the elimination Game 5 against the Thunder is simply not going to cut it. There is just no depth whatsoever on this team. The Lakers have to find more productive and formidable role players that can contribute off the bench.
No Draft Picks
Just a quick reminder that the Lakers also don’t have a 1st round draft pick this year or next. This is just adding insult to injury with the financial problems they have along with lack of depth. Draft picks are a great way to either pick up solid young talent or leverage in a trade. Unfortunately neither is an option for the Lakers at this point.
Well now what? As this season has drawn to a close, what is there to look forward to for the Lakers? Somehow they need to dig themselves out of the giant luxury tax hole they’ve already dug (yeah that doesn’t make a lot of sense). Free agency is out of the question until they can figure out their financial situation.
They need to trade Pau Gasol. If they can’t find a trade partner, then amnesty him.
Continue to develop Bynum, emotionally more than anything.
Ask Kobe if he’ll take less money to open up flexibility
Somehow develop some depth/better define roles
It’s not looking good for the Lakers is what I’ve concluded because of none other than…sigh…damn basketball reasons…