After a second straight postseason where they lost in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to go all in and make a run at a few more NBA titles.
They started by trading very little (future low level first-round picks in 2013 and 2015, plus a couple of second-round picks) to the Phoenix Suns for perennial All-Star point guard Steve Nash. They were able to acquire Nash (who signed a three-year deal worth $27 million) because of the trade exception they got in return for Lamar Odom when they traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.
Nash gives the Lakers an immediate upgrade over Ramon Sessions. Sessions played well for the Lakers at times after his trade from the Cavs (for Luke Walton and a first-round pick), but he was unable to create opportunities for the rest of the Lakers like Nash will surely be able to do. Nash will give L.A. the best pure point guard they have had since Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Antawn Jamison was signed to come off the bench and help the worst backup unit (scoring wise) in the NBA. Jamison averaged 17 points per game and six rebounds per game as a starter for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He won’t be expected to start, but he will be available to provide about 22-25 minutes. He can play some at power forward and small forward in a big lineup, and his outside shooting will be an asset.
The capper on all the offseason moves was the biggest blockbuster in many years when they acquired Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. They basically traded Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers in order to get Howard. Howard’s offense isn’t as good as Bynum’s, but he provides a better rebounder and defender, plus 100% hustle all the time. Too often, Bynum was lackadaisical on defense and rebounding the ball. Not to mention, he developed a penchant for shooting 3-pointers last season.
They also acquired Jodie Meeks to back up Kobe Bryant. Meeks and Nash should be able to help a poor outside shooting attack last season, as L.A. was 25th in 3-point shooting.
Add all this to the present cast of Kobe at shooting guard, Pau Gasol at power forward, and Ron Artest/Metta World Peace at small forward. They have one of the best starting units in the league and have an improved bench. That was strengthened when the Lakers re-signed Jordan Hill, who was acquired around the trade deadline for a first-round pick and Derek Fisher.
The biggest question is how will all these new parts fit. Well, if it was Mike Brown’s stagnant offense of last year when everybody watched Kobe handle the ball and end up shooting too often, it would be much worse. However, Brown recognized he needed help on the offensive end and went out and brought in Eddie Jordan.
He runs the Princeton offense, which is a motion offense and requires a lot of ball movement. So, in that aspect it is very similar to the triangle offense Phil Jackson ran when he was with the Lakers. Jordan learned it in the 1990s when he was an assistant coach with Pete Carril during their time with the Sacramento Kings. Carril ran the Princeton offense for years at the Ivy League school when he coached there from 1967-96. Jordan ran it in 2002 and 2003 when he was an assistant under Byron Scott with the New Jersey Nets. But, he failed in one season with the Philadelphia 76ers as the head coach. However, he made the playoffs in four of five seasons when he was the head man with the Washington Wizards.
You need the right players to run it, just like the triangle. And the Lakers have a very good passing big man in Gasol, a very good scorer in Kobe, and an aging but still solid PG in Nash. Howard gives them a luxury in having an elite big man who can do a little bit of everything.
The bench should be much improved, the defense will be even better with Howard and the offense should suit the players more than last year. L.A. has the players to make another championship run for a couple seasons before Kobe rides off to the sunset. It’s just a matter of executing the offense and defense. There are no excuses for the Lakers who have gone out and made another flashy makeover to their team.
Projected finish in Pacific Division: First
Darren Jacks is a regular contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Send him an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.