2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers

2011-2012 Record: 41-25, 1st in Pacific
Stat Leaders: Kobe Bryant, 27.9 ppg. Andrew Bynum, 11.8 rpg. Kobe Bryant, 4.6 apg. Andrew Bynum, 1.9 bpg

Depth Chart

C - Andrew Bynum (TO), Josh McRoberts
PF - Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill (TO)
SF - Metta World Peace, Christian Eyenga
SG - Kobe Bryant, Andrew Goudelock (TO)
PG - Ramon Sessions (PO), Steve Blake

Restricted Free Agents: G Darius Morris
Unrestricted Free Agents: GF Matt Barnes, GF Devin Ebanks

Kobe Bryant continues to rape his competition like
they were young white girls from Colorado.
The Good: There was perhaps no better big three in the NBA then the trio of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Bryant continues to defy belief, as he was a handful of points away from winning the scoring championship in his 16th year in the NBA. His shooting percentages remain good and he shows little signs of slowing down. Los Angeles almost broke up the twin towers duo before the season, but Gasol returned and both players averaged double doubles for the season. Bynum, especially, broke out in a big way this year, playing in 60 games and having, by far, the best season of his career. If you have those three guys, you can win your division without having much else (and the Lakers had nothing else). Ramon Sessions was also a nice mid season pickup, as he led the team in assists and gave the Lakers their first actual ball handling point guard in years.

The Bad: Other then those four players, the Lakers really don't have much to work with. Metta World Peace is nearing the end of the line, and guys like Josh McRoberts, Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks are simply end of the bench fodder. Head coach Mike Brown has a headache with Andrew Bynum, who undermined his head coach on several occasions. Bynum is like most extremely talented young big men in this league. He seems to be a bonehead most of the time. Like Lakers (and Grizzlies) fans have seen before, Gasol once again disappeared come playoff time. Time and time again Kobe's teammates seem to shrink when the spotlight is on. The Lakers are a very good team, but losing in the second round two years in a row qualifies as "The Bad".

Key Free Agents: Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks both started some games at the revolving door position of small forward. Neither guy was a factor at all in the playoffs and might move on elsewhere where they can get some more playing time.

Projected Cap Space: -$29,836,389. No, that is not a typo. Bryant, Gasol and Bynum alone have a higher salary then most NBA teams. The Lakers could opt to let Andrew Bynum out of his deal with one year remaining and resign him to a long term contract, but they could risk the unpredictable Bynum going elsewhere, as pretty much every team with cap space will throw a max contract his way. Hill and Goudelock have team options, but that would not even get close to getting the Lakers out of luxury tax territory.

Amnesty Possibilities: I guess they could let go of Steve Blake, who is making 4 million for the next two years. But that would do nothing but put a microscopic dent in the salary cap. The team is stuck with the guys they have, unless they choose to cut ties with World Peace, who is making 7 million for the next two years. Again though, they would not have anyone to fill his role, and with no cap space, a stud isn't walking through that door.

Free Agent Possibilities: Once again, they are going to have to rely on cheap veterans to fill out the bench. Would a veteran nearing the end of his career want to join the Lakers to come off the bench and try to win a championship? Someone like Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Antawn Jamison, Marcus Camby or Jermaine O'Neal would be a good addition to the Lakers bench. Any major changes to the roster will have to come via the trade route.

Draft Possibilities: The Lakers traded their first round pick to the Cavaliers, so again, they won't be able to add talent this way. The Lakers only pick will be the very last pick in the draft.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: Any time a team has Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, they are contending. For the second straight off season the team faces questions on whether they should blow up the team or not. They tried to last year, only to be thwarted by evil genius David Stern, as he instead handed Chris Paul to the in town rival Clippers. I suspect they will go hard after everyone they can. Deron Williams is already on their radar, and Dwight Howard will probably be as well. I don't see how either player can be had unless they give up Bynum. With one year left on his deal, and coming off a fully healthy season, the trade value for Bynum will never be higher. I could see the team moving Bynum for Williams then moving Gasol for two more starters. The team will have to be creative, but after seeing some of the trades that went down recently (*cough* Gerald Wallace *cough*) there are no shortage of sucker GM's for the Lakers to take advantage of.

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Jonathan Carrano

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