LA Lakers 2012 Postmortem Part II: Moving Forward

June 21, 2012

We continue with Part II of our 2012 LA Lakers Postmortem by assessing the team's options for next year:


The Lakers will go into the next season as underdogs with a shrinking championship window. Still, the Lakers have ample opportunities to stay relevant while shedding salary this offseason, but they will first need to part with some big names.

Full Training Camp

The Lakers operated under the triangle for over a decade, and this system became their identity. Attempting to adapt to Mike Brown's new system in a lockout year had them adjusting for much of the season. They were still making adjustments in the playoffs against teams that had been running their systems for years.

A full training camp will provide the opportunity to grow together, to develop chemistry, and to learn each others tendencies.

Training camp is often overlooked, but it can only mean improvement for promising young players such as Andrew Goudelock -- if the Lakers pick up his option -- and Christian Eyenga. Because Goudelock and Eyenga's salaries combine for just under 2 million, their development would provide the added benefit of less spending this offseason.

Trade Possibilities

The Lakers have an opportunity to trade Pau Gasol, who has two years remaining and will be owed $38 million during that span. Gasol is still an excellent power forward, but his aggressiveness and mentality in the playoffs has been a question mark. Here are some interesting possibilities:

1. Pau Gasol to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson

This trade is out there in left field, but from a money standpoint it would save the Lakers 5 million each of the next two years. Both guys would be under contract for the next 4 years.

Bargnani is a great shooter with upside, as his game somewhat resembles that of Dirk Nowitzki. On the other hand, Bargnani's weaknesses are defense and playing with his back to the basket -- two factors which have prevented him from becoming an elite player.

This move will allow Bynum to be featured exclusively on the block. If teams double Bynum, Bargnani would be capable of spreading the floor and hitting threes in bunches.

Amir Johnson is an excellent backup power forward, who is an athletic above-average defender that can play above the rim. Johnson's skill-set mirrors that of Jordan Hill, but he is distinct from Hill because he can finish strong and play stellar defense.

The Lakers have a team option on Hill. If they declined to exercise the option they wouldn't be losing anything with the Amir Johnson acquisition. Johnson is originally from the Los Angeles area, and is a Westchester High School alum.

ESPN Trade Machine Prediction: Lakers = -1 Wins

2. Pau Gasol and Christian Eyenga to the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors,  and Paul Millsap

This is another trade that seems out of the box, but it makes more sense than the Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry deal that everyone is still discussing. Scola is a poor man's Pau Gasol, while Lowry is an unproven point guard who is very quick, but needs to improve his ability to finish at the rim.

On the other hand, Paul Millsap is a tough guy who does the dirty work in the paint and is extremely competitive -- an element the Lakers were missing from Gasol at times.

Devin Harris has been through the wars even though he's only 7 years into his career, as he has experienced the NBA Finals and played alongside a superstar similar to Kobe Bryant when he played with Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas in 2006. Devin Harris also knows how to compete, leading the lowly New Jersey Nets in 2008 when he averaged 21.3 points and 6.9 assists per game.

A move like this would be a positive step toward the future because it would provide LA with a formidable point guard, a banger down low, and a big man with huge upside in Derrick Favors. All this while unloading Gasol's mega-contract.

For the Jazz, the prospect of pairing Al Jefferson with one of the game's best big men could be mouthwatering to them.

ESPN'S Trade Machine Prediction: Lakers =  +10 wins

Clearing the Bench

The Lakers have an opportunity to restructure their bench because inefficient guys such as Troy Murphy, Matt Barnes, and Devin Ebanks are now free agents. That's approximately 3 million in salary off the books.

The Lakers should resign Matt Barnes if the price is right, despite his mediocre three-point shooting.

Devin Ebanks is a subpar player with an inconsistent jumper and decent defense. Although he has athleticism, it's rarely exhibited because he lacks the speed or handles required to get to the rim.

In addition to Ebanks, the Lakers will need to part ways with Troy Murphy who had success in short spurts, but now looks as if his career is on the downturn.

The biggest opportunity the Lakers will have is to get younger and more athletic with a great free agent class.

In 2012, the Lakers were the third oldest team in the NBA, behind only the Mavericks and Celtics. The Lakers could also trade up to get a decent draft pick, while dealing Josh McRoberts, who hardly provided the Lakers a proper return on their investment considering his 3 million dollar deal.

To be continued in Part III . . .

By Kareem Arnold
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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