The Lakers are out of the playoffs. What next?
As seen by many, the Lakers have a very flawed team. The supporting cast is weak outside of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol... and their supposed savior at point guard turned out to be a nervous wreck in the postseason. And there is no way they are going to rebuild, per se, with Kobe's career winding down.
Let's start with the coach, though. Mike Brown did pretty good considering the circumstances. His roster was changing quite a bit up 'til the trading deadline. But he needs to be better in making in-game adjustments. He really needs to adjust his offense that will suit his personnel better. And if he's really in charge as the coach, I'd like him to change the perception that he doesn't get bossed around by star players. We can judge him far better in the coming season than this hurried season. He has a full training camp to put in his whole system.
The front office (Mitch Kupchak) has some work to do. Not only are they trying to improve the roster but they're trying to cut down on their payroll, too. Obviously, Kobe and his nearly $28 million salary of next season isn't going anywhere. So you look at the other two that are making a lot of money: Gasol ($19 million) and Bynum (team option of $16.1 million).
I believe one of them has to go if the Lakers want to reload. There is hardly any room for the Lakers to improve the roster if all three are going to stay. And with this current make-up, I don't think all three staying fixes the problem.
Pau Gasol does not thrive with the role Lamar Odom used to have. He is NOT a stretch 4. Pau is a post player and that's where he works the magic the best. Bynum HAS to be in the post. That's why we saw a lot of Odom and Gasol in the old Phil Jackson Laker line-ups; they worked best together.
I hate to say this but I would trade Gasol first before Bynum. This is Gasol's second postseason in a row where he's had some weak performances... and he's on the downside of his career. What doesn't help? His $19 million price tag.
But why trade Gasol first before Bynum when Bynum has been a headache? Because Bynum is 1) cheaper and 2) going into the prime of his career. Yes, he basically only plays when he wants to but, as of yet, we STILL haven't been able to see his full potential. When Kobe retires, this will be his team and I would absolutely take the gamble of keeping him for next year. If it doesn't work out, there will be takers and he can bring back more assets.
It's amazing how many players didn't play to their potential in the playoffs. Obviously, the big men mentioned are two of those Lakers. But Matt Barnes couldn't make a shot to save his life and Ramon Sessions played scared. Somehow, it was Metta World Peace that played better (he was on the uptick before he got suspended) considering how much a lot of people wanted him out at the start of the year.
I don't think anyone in L.A. saw the slump of Sessions coming. Yeah, he was overhyped a lot by L.A. as the solution but it was because he was worlds better than what the Lakers had (Derek Fisher and Steve Blake). Through it all, he was not even close to being one of the top point guards in the league and, if anything, he was just a good enough player to start in the league. To some, he may not be starter-material. But the dropoff in the playoffs was considerably sharp as he went from being a near double-double threat at the start of his Laker tenure to a guy who wasn't even finishing games in the playoffs. It seemed the bright lights got to him. If he tried to test out the market, well, his stock has lowered. He'll probably be back with the Lakers on that modest $4.6 million.
Thanks to ShamSports.Com for this... but as you see in that link, the ones that are signed for next year are Kobe, Pau, MWP, Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts, and Christian Eyenga. Bynum's option hasn't been officially picked up yet and Sessions has the option to come back as a Laker. If none get traded and players' options get picked up, the Lakers will be back with the same starting line-up from last year. That's the core of the same Laker team that got bounced off the second round. Is this what the fans want? Also, don't forget that the Lakers are looking to cut payroll because of the new CBA. The Lakers can use the amnesty clause to relieve themselves of some cap... and it would likely be used on MWP or Blake.
The Lakers need shooters. The Lakers need stars that will commit. And with not much maneuverability unless they move Pau or Bynum, they definitely won't get the latter. Kobe is turning 34 years old before the season starts.
Unless they do a major shake-up in that Laker core (and even then!), that championship window will be slammed shut in the face of the Lakers. That's not what the Lakers want.
Reality is cold.