Los Angeles Lakers Enter Offseason of Questions

5/24/12 in NBA   |   AJ_88   |   166 respect

May 21, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts to being defeated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in game five of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder defeated the Lakers 106-90.  Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIREThe Los Angeles Lakers, two years removed from their last championship, have been ousted in the second round in consecutive seasons and now face a few uncertainties entering the offseason. For starters, their bench has been horrendous, for lack of a better word. The inconsistent effort they receive from their starting front court is also cause for major concern. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should combine to create the most feared front court in the NBA, however, they fail to show up every night, leaving the heavy lifting to Kobe Bryant.

The issue lies in the fact that Kobe is no longer the Kobe we are used to seeing. He is still a fantastic scorer, probably still the best one-on-one player in the league, however, he cannot be counted upon to score every single time down the stretch of games in isolation sets. Fade-away jumpers and holding the ball for the majority of the shot clock with no offensive movement or fluidity is easy to defend in today's NBA.

The elite teams in the league have figured out how to defend that and they play the percentages, allowing Kobe to hoist up a challenged 25 footer, rather than allow him to drive, draw and kick it to a shooter or dump it to a big man down low. 

The areas that require attention are the point guard, bench and big men. Ramon Sessions has a player option for this upcoming season and has yet to decide what he wants to do. If he is to opt-in, the Lakers will have him under contract for next season and his next deal will be solely based upon his production next year. The bench was just incapable of scoring. Simple as that. The issue, however, is that the Lakers are over the cap and do not possess a first round draft pick as they traded that to Cleveland in the deal for Sessions. Mitch Kupchak will need to get creative if he wants to field a better overall roster to surround Kobe because without the financial flexibility, the Lakers may need to increase their scouting efforts to spot gems in the second round of the draft as well as undrafted free agents.  

May 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) and power forward Pau Gasol (16) smile after a basket during game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Staples Center against the Denver Nuggets.  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIREPau Gasol and Andrew Bynum either need to figure out how to play off each other consistently or one of them needs to be moved. If they cannot bring energy and effort every night, they do not deserve to don the purple and gold. This league is becoming more reliant on athleticism and therefore Bynum may be the disposable part. He has promise and has shown spots where he can be brilliant. He is a large force in the middle and if he is mentally there, he is almost unstoppable on the block. A trade to Orlando in a package deal for Dwight Howard may be the most logical move for the Lakers as there have already been rumors saying the Brooklyn Nets would not accept a swap of Pau Gasol for Deron Williams. 
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