Yes, we’re going to talk about the Lakers again. We’re going to talk about them until we get this thing figured out. We’ll stay here all night if we have to. We’ll write 25,000 words. We’ll circumvent the salary cap with a shady deal that lands a 48-year-old Joe Smith. We’ll bring Magic out of retirement – again. But the Lakers will return to the top of the NBA!
But in the meantime, a pair of Lakers fans channeled their grief and attempted to figure out what went wrong and how it can be fixed. I filed from the home office in New York City and was joined by Mark Harming, a South Dakota teacher and fellow Lakers rube. On Monday night, as the season slipped away, we chatted about their demise on Twitter. On Tuesday, we emailed about what was next. I picture Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak doing the same thing, hopefully with better ideas than ours.
Our mission today is to fix the Lakers. Since all personnel moves in the NBA are so salary cap conscious… we need to consider who is paid what and for how long.
Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy, Devin Ebanks, and Derrick Caracter all have expiring contracts.
Who do you look to move? And for who?
I’ll get to the players in a moment – or in 500 words. First I want to talk coaching. Will Mike Brown be back? Should he be back? Does he deserve any type of blame or was this just an inevitable result that no one could have prevented – after all, the Lakers were swept under Phil Jackson a year ago. Being that he’s Jim Buss’s hire, I’m sure he’ll return — and probably deserves a full season. I’m still bitter that the Lakers didn’t hire Rick Adelman after Jackson’s retirement, as I would have loved to see his offense with this group. I can almost guarantee Pau Gasol wouldn’t have been stuck out at the 3-point line or looking lost from 15 feet away. There would have been movement and cuts. The Lakers’ defense was outstanding at times during the season, but Brown’s offense was about as imaginative as Norman Dale’s four passes attack at Hickory. The in-game adjustments also left much to be desired. Still, barring a Phil Jackson Part III move, it’ll be Brown.
So who will he coach? Well, Caracter’s already gone as he was released in February, even though he seemed to have some potential. Barnes? He gave them some grit, some hustle, some timely threes, could attack the basket and could cause some damage on the glass. In the regular season. Two straight years he suffered an injury before the playoffs and two straight years he did nothing in the postseason. He’s gone. Ebanks has some potential, but I could see him looking to move on to a place where he’d get consistent time. Murphy? Nice minimum pickup, won’t be back. Those are the little guys, the role players. They are important – as the Lakers’ putrid bench performance in the OKC series showed – but ultimately it’s about the stars.
So do you move Gasol? Bynum? Pursue Howard? A legitimate perimeter player? Bring back Metta? Big problems…big moves to solve them? Or maybe bring back the core, with some tweaks to those role players?
First off, I don’t think there’s any way that Mike Brown isn’t back, unless like you said Phil came back. I was in the Brian Shaw camp last summer, but I really don’t think Mike Brown was at fault. He did a pretty good job considering everything he had to deal with (The cancelled Chris Paul trade, the moving of Lamar Odom, Pouting Pau Gasol until after the trade deadline, and all the problems Metta World Peace brings to the table…) Coaching doesn’t seem to be a factor, or at least not the biggest one.
As far as making changes, We can look at it a few different ways.
1. Keep the core intact (Pau/Bynum/Kobe) and look to make some minor changes.
2. Make a move for a big player… Bynum for Dwight Howard? Pau Gasol for Deron Williams?
3. Move a big player for a number of pieces.
My thoughts are this… I’d move Bynum for Howard straight up, if Orlando would do it. Otherwise I don’t consider moving him. Yes, he’s immature and he disappears at times (like last night), but at his age and his ability, you’d have to get a great, and I mean Great Player for him. That, and the fact that he is Jim Buss’s favorite…I don’t see Bynum getting moved.
Gasol for a number of pieces really makes sense. He makes 19 million dollars next year. If you can divvy that up between a few other nice players that would help. Now as to who those players would be, and what they could get for him, I have no idea.
Metta World Peace should be moved, but I don’t know who would take him for his current salary? He’s due over 7 million next year. You can get defense out of Ebanks for not nearly the money, and use that salary space to get a better offensive player.
Watching ESPN this morning it was mentioned on Mike and Mike that the Magic will look to trade Dwight Howard within the month. Whatever happens that will have to go down first, before any other major moves are made.
Kobe isn’t going anywhere. The Laker fanbase would have a true meltdown if that happened. And he makes 27 million dollars next season.
Honestly, if they wanted to reboot the franchise…. just start over… you’d look to move Kobe. But that’s not going to happen.
First, I’m sorry you watched Mike & Mike. Please don’t tell me you’re a First Take guy, too.
In a dream world I’d love to keep Gasol and move Bynum. Gasol became one of my all-time favorite Lakers. Great player, unselfish, cool-looking with the beard and grace, the Black Swan nickname, the Spaniard nickname, smart guy off the court, well-spoken and helped transform a team lost in a sea of dropped Kwame Brown passes. Bynum hasn’t shown he can be the No. 2 guy on a title team, much less No. 1. In the three Finals runs, he basically missed two of them and battled through injury in the other to contribute, but it was still Gasol down low.
That said, I think Gasol’s the guy to go. And it’s probably time. As great as he’s been, he seems worn out with the Lakers, tired of Kobe and ready for a new team. And the Lakers — after seeing him struggle mightily two straight playoffs — are probably ready to see him go. Wait, they did send him off once and got Chris Paul in return. Sorry to bring back bad memories.
So I think they ship him again somewhere but what can they get? Another Paul? Probably no. Even with Howard’s potential back issues I’d trade Bynum straight up, but it seemed like Howard didn’t have much desire to come to LA — at least not with the purple and gold.
So keep Bynum, get some speed and perimeter help in exchange for Gasol. They really need another threat who can handle the ball. Not sure what happened to Sessions in the last month — whether it was Brown slowing him down too much until he lost his confidence or just a guy who’s bounced around showing why he bounced around — but I can’t see him being the answer at point. Bring Blake back as a backup. So perimeter guys in a Gasol deal, see if Hill can play the 4 and…how about bringing Odom back? I’d be for it, believing he could work his way back into shape — mentally and physically — and when he’s at the four it just works better than when Gasol and Bynum are together. Odom perfectly complements Gasol or Bynum in the paint and in this scenario, it’s Bynum.
Another need? How about a guy who can knock down a 3 once in awhile? How do the Spurs continue to find these guys who can drain corner 3s all night? Someone to stretch the D, take pressure off of Kobe’s drives and in the paint.
Hmmm, a lot of needs here. That said, I think they can still contend with some changes. As long as Kobe is still capable of dominating – even if it’s not as dominant as he once was — they can contend. Look at the Spurs. Past few years they were swept by the Suns and drilled by the Grizz. Everyone thought they were done. And here we are.
I’m agreed, I’d rather keep Gasol than Bynum… but I don’t think that will happen. The sad thing about Gasol was, I was actually looking forward to him in Mike Brown’s offense. Wasn’t one of his selling points about how they ran an effective two post offense with the Spurs when he was there?
I do think Jordan Hill showed me something in the playoffs. That guy is a hard worker and will voluntarily do the dirty work. Hill and Bynum in the post are kind of an intriguing combination, and they are both young. Hill can set screens and get rebounds.
Pau is such a gifted big man, and there are a million decent wing players in the league (it’s just the Lakers don’t really have any of them). I honestly could see Pau moved to a team with some decent wing players and possibly a decent draft pick.
Sessions I think we are stuck with. I like his game, and think he can be a pretty good one, but you’re right he didn’t look himself in the playoffs.
Lamar Odom I would also welcome back, at a reduced salary. He would fit really well with what they were doing this year with Pau, and he could be the “crunch time” guy with Bynum out there. I like this idea a lot. Of course, he’d have to get his mind right, and I’m not sure if that’s possible in Kardashian world.
I also liked what I saw from Josh McRoberts this year. (Which as a Tar Heels fan kills me to say). This was another Mike Brown fault in that he switched to Jordan Hill as his 3rd post in the last week of the season.
I would think that Pau Gasol and Ramon Sessions to Brooklyn for Deron Williams and Lopez or Humphries wouldn’t be bad, but the Nets are holding on to Williams so they can attract Dwight Howard. And also that doesn’t solve the Lakers lack of depth on the wings.
There’s certainly a lot of different ways to go.
Brown’s rotations were odd. McRoberts and Murphy went from playing a decent amount to being the Chuck Nevitts of 2012. Jordan Hill never played and then became backup big man. Barnes, Morris, etc., all suffered similar fates. And he also ran Kobe into the ground during the regular season, which I think caught up with him in the playoffs. Then again, maybe he had to or they would have been a seventh or 8th seed. A backup shooting guard isn’t among their greatest needs, but it’s a need.
My current fantasy is Steve Nash coming to the Lakers. He signs for less money for that cliched chance to have a final run at the title. Although knowing what happens to people who sign on to play point for the Lakers — Gary Payton, Sessions — he will become a tentative dribbler who hits 25 percent of his 3-pointers. But I would love to see him out there creating, dribbling, taking the ballhandling pressure off of Kobe. And the Lakers would finally have someone who can make a post-entry pass.
The two-post offense I think was a Brown selling point. I don’t know, I’m beginning to think maybe Popovich had more to do with the Spurs’ success than Brown. I should stop ripping on Brown. They do have much bigger issues than the coach.
Deron Williams would be the ultimate but I can’t see the Nets taking Gasol in any package for him and I don’t think they can afford to sign him just as an outright free agent. So now we’re back to my Nash dream.
So how’s this all end? Honestly, I expect to be underwhelmed. I think they’ll get some okay players in exchange for Gasol. They’ll sign their yearly quota of over-the-hill guys for the bench who play well sometimes but otherwise disappoint. Sessions and Blake will be back. Bynum will be back. And he will be the key to whether they can hang in as a top team in the West. Can he bring it every night? And, of course, can Kobe still score 27 a game, preferably while shooting better than 43 percent? If he remains elite, they also always have a chance. I think he has two or three great years left so I’m not worried about him. The rest? Worried. A few changes, 48 wins next year…second-round defeat. Hopefully I’m wrong and it’s an exciting offseason.
I agree with a lot of what you say there. Bynum and Kobe will be there, Gasol will be moved for some pieces, and Sessions (who holds a player option… it’s up to him) will be back.
So you’ll have a starting lineup of Bynum, Hill (probably, if he’s brought back), World Peace, Kobe, and Sessions… backed up by Blake, 2 players traded for Gasol, McRoberts, and someone else to take Troy Murphy’s spot (maybe Troy Murphy?)
I also agree that they would probably be beaten in the second round, and possibly the first, depending on who the wing players are.
Honestly, unless Kobe takes a pay cut (which is not allowed under the new CBA, unfortunately), this team is going to struggle to win a title. He’s due $27 million next year! Shoot, if he cuts that to 20 (which is still a top 5 salary), that is 7 million dollars more they can spend. That’s a decent wing player (that’s what Metta makes now). But since it’s against the rules, I guess that point is moot.
I’m intrigued by your Steve Nash idea… so just throwing this out there… Jason Kidd? His contract is up. He’s already talking about being a back-up. He’d be a decent option as a reserve point guard, which could free up Blake to be traded in any Gasol package.
One thing I do have to give the Lakers credit for, is that their front office has generally done a very good job over the years of acquiring talent. Mitch Kupchak does a good job of finding players, and the Buss family does not have an issue paying the luxury tax. So, “we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.” (Caddyshack)
Thanks for taking the time to break this down with me, Shawn. I really enjoyed it.
Thanks for joining us, folks. Come back next year after they’re again eliminated in the second round.