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Where Do The Lakers Go From Here?

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You have to admire Mitch Kupchak for putting his misery on display tonight. He could've stayed in Los Angeles for Game Five. Or he could've attended it but watched from a luxury box. Instead he chose to sit in the stands and allow the TBS cameras to capture his gaze, which grew more desolate and despairing as the evening wore on. Even if you'd no idea of the score or anything happening on the court, you could've watched Mitch for two and a half hours and gleaned a pretty decent idea of where the Lakers' season was heading. His was the expression of a man seeing his best professional efforts fall well short.

The Lakers, as they're now constructed, are not capable of competing for NBA championships. The roster is too old and too slow. In consecutive seasons they've not come close to escaping the second round, and since knocking off Boston in the 2010 Finals they're 9-13 in the playoffs. Young powers like the Thunder will only get better, and the moves Kupchak has made in an effort to keep pace have made sense for the most part but haven't worked out well enough. The upper tier of NBA teams no longer includes the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant will not win his sixth championship ring as a Laker unless significant roster moves are made... and maybe not even then.

Position by position, let's take a spin through the roster to see what Mitch has to deal with this offseason.

Point Guard
Ramon Sessions has a player option for next season worth $4.6 million. I was a big fan of the Sessions trade and loved how he performed when he initially came over, but there's no getting around it: he was a disaster in the OKC series. Presumably that means he'll exercise his option, so assume he'll be the starting point guard next year. It could be worse. He's still just 26 and is a decent bet to improve as he gains familiarity with the system and his teammates. Steve Blake still has two years left on his deal at $4 million apiece. Darius Morris is... still a person who exists. Getting excited yet?

Shooting Guard
Kobe has two seasons and $58 million left on his contract. He'll be 34 when next season starts, and the Lakers simply have to find a backup who'll allow Mike Brown to keep a lid on Kobe's minutes. Andrew Goudelock, who showed flashes of usefulness, has an unguaranteed deal for less than $1 million so one imagines he'll be back. I like Goudelock, but come on. He's a scratch-off ticket. The Lakers need a well-rounded, ready-to-play backup who can trouble the James Hardens of the world on D and make threes at the other end.

Small Forward
As we saw tonight, Metta World Peace is still capable of doing some nice things. He's under contract for another two years at about $7.5 million per, and weirdly enough his deal doesn't seem that outrageous right now. But the Lakers could use an athletic shooter to back up MWP, and Devin Ebanks (now a restricted free agent) isn't that guy. Matt Barnes, who played his way out of the playoff rotation, is a free agent and presumably won't be back. Christian Eyenga will be unless he's tossed into a trade as salary ballast.

Power Forward
Hoo boy. For the second straight year Pau Gasol's performance was... lamentable. With two years left on his deal at $19 million apiece, he won't be easy to move - certainly not with his perceived value in freefall. Pau looks like a guy who, for whatever reason, is tired of being a Laker and possibly tired of playing professional basketball. You'll hear plenty of trade rumors involving him in the months ahead. Behind Pau on the depth chart you've got unrestricted free agent Jordan Hill and the disappointing Josh McRoberts.

And speaking of disappointments... what do you do with a problem like Andrew Bynum? I don't see Drew getting moved in any deal that doesn't bring back Dwight Howard, but I empathize with those of you whose frustrations with him are boiling over. His four-rebound, zero-blocked-shot "effort" in Game Five was wholly unacceptable. Drew's under contract for just one more year at $16 million. Backing him up on the depth chart is literally nobody.

Head Coach
I wouldn't bother mentioning this except that Stan Van Gundy is, as of today, on the market. There doesn't seem to be any organizational appetite for changing coaches, but the Lakers should be making discreet inquiries of SVG's people. If he's interested in taking over, it's worth considering even though Mike Brown is still owed a lot of money over the next few years. Landing SVG would be one of the few ways the Lakers can immediately upgrade.

The team's cap situation - they're over it by a huge amount - means there are no easy fixes. Not to mention, the Lakers don't have any draft picks until the late, late second round. Odds are we'll see Gasol moved for pieces that hopefully add depth, speed and outside shooting, and we'll hope that a full training camp brings much-needed stability and gets everyone working off the same script. In any case, if this is the end of the Kobe-Pau Lakers, it's certainly been a nice run, hasn't it?

Thanks to all of you for spending the season with us here at Silver Screen and Roll. We're incredibly grateful for our readers and commenters, and we hope we've made this year a little more enjoyable for you, as you definitely have for us. As always, we'll go hard on offseason coverage, so please come back often. We hope to see you around.










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