The 2012 Lakers: An Autopsy

The season is finally over for the Los Angeles Lakers, and it didn’t end well. The team lost in 5 games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the playoffs. It didn’t have to be this way. In two of the games that they lost, the Lakers had a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter. Why did the Lakers blow those games? Because OKC is younger, quicker, more athletic and more talented; and because the Lakers are older, slower and only have one player they can rely on, Kobe Bryant.

Kobe was the only player who played well Monday night for the Lakers. In fact, he was fantastic, scoring 42 points. Pau Gasol was more aggressive than he was in the last couple games, but he did not have a good night, making 35% of his shots. In all likelihood he will be traded this summer. Gasol’s contribution to the Lakers during the last 5 years has been terrific, as he was instrumental in helping the Lakers win 2 championships. In fact, his effort for the Lakers was second to only Kobe Bryant, and for that Pau will forever hold a special place in Lakers fans’ hearts.

But this season he really slowed down, and all but disappeared during a couple games against OKC, culminating in his game 4 disaster turnover. There is not enough room in the low post for Gasol and Andrew Bynum anymore. And Bynum is the future of the Lakers. Yes, he sometimes has rough nights and is a little immature, but so what? He’s still the most skilled big man in the league, and when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.

In order for the Lakers to be competitive next year they must upgrade at the point guard position, which has been the team’s weak spot for years. The Lakers made a late season trade for Ramon Sessions in an attempt to fill that hole, but to no avail. He’s not a starting point guard for a team that wants to win a championship.

The Lakers need a ball handler that can alleviate the burden of Kobe who — while still the best scorer in the game — is not the player he used to be. By getting rid of Gasol, who is scheduled to earn nearly $40 million during the next two years, the Lakers will free up plenty of cap space to bring in a first rate point guard. The Lakers have a couple options: sign the aging Steve Nash for one year or go after Deron Williams in a long term deal. Either one of those players would be the perfect remedy to help Kobe transition to a more off-the-ball role, and would ensure the Lakers compete for the Championship next year. I would be thrilled with either one of those players.

For you NBA fans, make sure to catch OKC vs San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals. In the meantime, I will find solace in rooting against the Miami Heat. Go Pacers!