Magic called it last year. Many of us have been calling it for the past couple years. This team just isn’t built to win. Drastic changes have been needed for some time.
The last couple years have illustrated two main problems, that had they been addressed properly, the Lakers’ fate would have probably been more positive.
First, we have no shooters. Nothing has been done to address this problem. Don’t hand me any bull about Jason Kapono or Steve Blake. Have those two really been the only attempted solutions to a complete dearth of shooters?
Second, there has been a complete and total lack of passion, outside of Kobe and a couple of bench guys. Metta World Peace at least brings it in the post-season. I was ready to write him off at mid-season, as were the vast majority of Laker fans. He’s done enough to change my mind. Jordan Hill is another guy who plays with intensity, as is Matt Barnes. Notice a problem here? The other members of the "big three" are playing like AMMO when the pressure hits.
Let’s break down the roster. Kobe’s contract is going to cripple the roster for some time. However, with proper fiscal management, and shedding of albatross contracts, the Lakers can reload now, without a full rebuild.
Kobe. There’s really no explanation needed here. His insanely huge contract runs through the 2014 offseason, but he’s worth it. I guess, logically, if you could trade him for LeBron, it’d be worth considering due to the financial ramifications and LeBron’s age, but you can’t. And the Lakers won’t.
Jordan Hill. He’s decently cheap, plays at 100%, and has shown a lot of talent and heart since Mike Brown gave him a chance. He’s not a starter, but he’s a great first big man off the bench.
Matt Barnes. He’s a free agent, but if he’d come back on a minimum contract, I’d say bring him back in a heartbeat. He’s a great energy guy, a veteran, and mildly insane. What more could you ask for from a backup?
Metta World Peace. Most would say get rid of him. I’d say no doubt, bring him back. He just took the blame for the team sucking during the regular season, which he rightfully should. He showed up out of shape to camp, with a nerve problem, and played like crap. Real men stand up and say "my bad." Others, like Gasol, defer.
Andrew Bynum. This is probably the most controversial. It shouldn’t be. Yes, he’s 24. Yes, he’s muscular and has a great offensive repertoire. He’s also a punk. He’s lazy, plays at 60% unless he’s getting all the shots, and refuses to pass out of double teams. Nothing makes me angrier than watching him play. On defense, Nick Collison will cut past him for a layup. On offense, he’ll get triple-teamed and throw up a brick. He needs to be the featured guy on a team for his own development and for our sanity. I’d trade him for Dwight Howard in a heartbeat, even with the recent back surgery.
Pau Gasol. He’s an excellent passer. He has the occasional monster game. He’s soft as hell, both mentally and physically. How many times did he look like he was going to cry during the last game? Ask yourself, is he a maximum level guy? The max, under the new CBA, is about $15 or $16 million. He’s making $19 million next season and $19.28 the year after. If you can trade him for a Kyle Lowry, or for the haul we almost got for him from Houston in the preseason (Kevin Martin , Luis Scola, etc.) then you take that deal.
Josh McRoberts. If anyone will take him, Jordan Hill has claimed his spot. He serves no purpose if you bring Hill back. However, he makes so little that the amnesty provision would be wasted on him. If you can’t trade him, he’s your AMMO.
Steve Blake. If anyone will take him, trade him. Portland seemed interested at one point. Send him there for a used Pryzbilia jersey. If not, amnesty him. He’s not worth $4 million now, and he sure as hell won’t be worth it in 2014.
Troy Murphy. I don’t think this requires any explanation. I thought he’d be better than he was. So did Mitch. He wasn’t, and his contract is up.
Ramon Sessions. He’s got a player option. I pray that he doesn’t pick it up. He was really cool for like a week. Then the league adjusted. He can’t shoot from distance. He turns the ball over. He was a turnstile on defense in the postseason. He can run really really fast. He’d be fine as a backup, playing Run ‘n Gun with the bench guys, but he’s not a starter and not worth $4.5 million.
Devin Ebanks. He shows potential. He provides replacement level production. If he’ll come back at the minimum, sure, keep him. If not, he hasn’t shown anything worth getting excited about.
Darrius Morris. See Goudelock.
Christian Eyenga. Honestly, who cares? His contract is guaranteed for next season. He won’t contribute a damn thing.
That leaves us with Kobe, Metta, Hill, Barnes, Ebanks, Goudelock, and Morris as guys I’d like to see back, if they’ll come back at the right price. Sessions and Eyenga will probably be back, though I wouldn’t care if they left.
Gasol, Bynum, Blake, and Murphy gotta go. Bynum can probably net Dwight Howard. Gasol could net a couple of starters. We may not end up with a big three, but a big two plus a lot of depth and speed seems to be a preferable option to the status quo.
A coach review and Free Agent Wish list will probably crop up later this week. For now, let’s just say a true starting point guard and outside shooting would do the trick, as would a full training camp with Brown and Co.