If the team stays relatively intact, there’s one area in which the Lakers need to improve–the back court.
Plenty fans will comment and say “Mike D’Antoni needs to be fired and the Lakers can improve by getting Phil Jackson.” However, that’s simply not going to happen. That ship has sailed; the Lakers are going forward with D’Antoni, and he’s already making changes to his coaching staff.
The front court is actually quite well put together, and if healthy, one of the best–if not the best–in the league. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol developed a bit of chemistry towards the end of the season, which should only grow with time.
Then you have the reserves; even if the Lakers don’t re-sign Antawn Jamison (who played well at times but was inconsistent), they still have Jordan Hill and Earl Clark (Earl is a free agent, but said he would take less money to return to the Lakers).
If Earl can improve his overall game and continue to work on his shooting, ball-handling, finishing at the rim, and defense, he could be the athletic wing player the Lakers so desperately need; as the Lakers certainly could use an extra boost on the wing.
However, the lack of depth in the back court is the most glaring deficiency this offseason.
It’s one reason Kobe Bryant opted to play the majority of minutes towards the end of the season, which proved to simply be too much for his body in his 17th season of play.
I like both Steves (Nash and Blake) complementing each other whether one is on the floor and the other isn’t or whether both are on the floor together, but defensively there is a bit of a problem. Nash was never much of a defender, and at age 39, he’s certainly not getting better. As for Blake, he’s a scrappy defensive player but is often overpowered against elite point guards and undersized against shooting guards.
Ideally, the Lakers would move one of them and pick up a solid combo guard to spell both guard positions and play around 25-30 minutes, but that’s unlikely to happen.
So, basically what I’m proposing is an upgrade to the backup shooting guard position. I like Jodie Meeks and his hustle, but his shooting is decent (he shot 35.7 percent from behind the three-point line last season), his ball-handling is scary and his attempts at taking the ball to the rack are simply ugly (sorry, Jodie!)
The Lakers have a team option on Meeks, but I’d like to see them try to upgrade at his position.
The Lakers’ options are very limited given their salary commitments and the penalties they will be facing next season, but if they can add a little bit of size, some defense and someone who can get his own shot all in one player, it would drastically improve the Lakers; especially if Kobe Bryant isn’t ready or at full strength to start the season.
If this player could make plays in addition to being able to create his own shot, shoot the long ball and defend, it would be exponentially more beneficial.
In a perfect world, the Lakers would pick up someone like Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith, but acquiring a player of that caliber simply won’t happen for the Lakers right now (Smith actually has a team option for under $3 million next season, but I’m going to bet the Knicks are going to pick that up), barring a miracle.
Many of the players I’m about to announce are probably unrealistic, but then ask yourself this:
How many times has a player seemed unrealistic to the Lakers, and management somehow got them?
There’s the end of the spectrum filled with unreasonable and overly demanding Lakers fans who will scream “Get Chris Paul!” and then those on the other end who are maybe too realistic and take the fun out of articles like this. I’ll try to list some players in the middle of this, and who knows, maybe Mitch Kupchak will somehow work his magic once again.
I’m not going to get into the salary cap issues and how/if each of these could work simply because I am not expert on this stuff, but will rather examine this from a basketball perspective.
Check the next page for some potential free agent possibilities.
Next Page: Free Agent Possibilities