There is no doubt that Mitch Kupchak is one of the best GM's in all of basketball, perhaps professional sports as a whole. Sure he imploded the Lakers when he traded away Shaq, but his overall work has been impressive to say the least. He acquired superstars such as Karl Malone, Gary Payton, and Pau Gasol. Mitch has also brought over a few mid-level players such Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest, both of which proved to be key pieces to the back-to-back titles. And even his in-decisions have paid off since keeping Andrew Bynum over trading him for Jason Kidd looks a hell of a lot smarter now.
And I'm sure every Laker fan has the utmost confidence in the moves he ultimately decides to make this offseason. But after this lost season, there are a few matters that need addressing and here is my take on what Kupchak and the Buss family should do:
1. Make Brian Shaw the new head coach
It might not be as sexy, instating Brian Shaw as head coach makes the most sense. For one, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers are on extremely good terms with Shaw. He's been on the staff for some time and has played with or against some of the guys on the team. In order for a team to be successful, they need to trust their head coach and Brian Shaw is very credible.
Secondly and most importantly, he will continue to implement the Triangle. All Laker fans have heard this year is "The Lakers are old" and "Kobe isn't young anymore". (By the way, I wasn't aware 32 was old. I'm 18 so I guess I have to start my bucket list.) Yes, they aren't getting any younger and are one of the oldest teams in the league. So why, after winning two titles in the past three seasons, bring in a new coach with a new philosophy. Introducing the team to a new system would make zero sense since they are already built to win another ring.
2. Don't trade for Dwight too early
Dwight Howard is the NBA's best big man and best defensive player. As a matter of fact, he could become the league's most dominant player on both sides of the court if he continues to improve his offense. But was Dwight Howard a Laker during the two title runs? No.
So the Lakers don't need him quite yet. When playing at full force, the Bynum-Gasol duo is simply unstoppable. We know they have what it takes to win because we have seen it twice. With Bynum and Gasol, the Lakers are still the best team in the NBA even though their postseason performance did not translate it. (It was more of a will problem than a skill problem.)
What I'm saying here is stick with what works. Pau and Bynum have worked for two championships and can still work for more. But if Bynum continues to become a health concern and/or Pau continues his hot and cold play, then we might be looking at pulling a Shaquille O'Neal and acquiring the Orlando big man.
3. Dump Luke Walton off somewhere
Although it would be sad not to hear "Luuuuuuuuuuuuuke" at Staples anymore, Luke has been as relevant as Nas since Illmatic. He's hauling in over five million a year and is owed over 11 million in the next two just to ride the bench. And Luke isn't even fun on the bench. At least AMMO's awkwardness on the pine was worth the hefty contract.
Just try to dump Luke off to a sucker for a second round pick even though he isn't worth it. Just as they did with Farmar and Sasha, I'm sure the Nets wouldn't mind taking on another Laker in Luke.
No wonder why Matt Barnes has played for eight, count 'em eight, teams already. He sucks! He is extremely disappointing. He was supposed to provide tough defense and maybe a spark of offense here and there. All he supplied was the assault of a Dallas assistant coach and the personification of the Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
Barnes has a player option and has no reason not to pick it up. If the Lakers are fortunate, he will decline it. But he won't cause no one will play him what he'll get from the Lakers next year. So what to do? Easy, ship him off to a contender. Many teams seem to think they NEED a guy like Barnes to compete, so just follow the illusion and give him away.
Tayshaun Prince, a well-respected vet, is a free agent his offseason. If the Lakers can dump Barnes or Walton and clear up some cap, Prince would be an incredible pickup. Just think of Matt Barnes, but three times better. He is a lockdown defender and can provide the bench with a much needed kick. A serious problem for the Lakers in that Dallas series was the lack of production by the bench. Adding Prince would improve the pine on offense and defense.
5. Pick up Ebanks and Caracter and let Ratliff and Smith walk.
Just some sensible moves here. Ebanks and Caracter show some promise, so stick to them. And just let Theo Ratliff and Joe Smith walk for obvious reasons. There's plenty of big men who can ride the bench that aren't 50 years old.
So there it is. Nothing too drastic has to be done. The Lakers are still built to be the league's champs.
Stick to the guns that got you there, make a few minor improvements, and we'll see yet another banner being raised to the rafters of Staples.