Friday, July 2, 2010

Retooling a Champion

I know it's kind of crazy to talk about the needed reconstruction of a back-to-back world champion, but I feel the need to. The Lakers are going to need to cement two glaring spots in their roster if they hope to end the 2010-2011 season with the insanely unprecedented accomplishment of Phil Jackson's fourth three-peat. And here are my hopes for those spots ...

We're losing quite a few locker room soldiers this offseason. Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, DJ Mbenga, Adam Morrison, and maybe Josh Powell are all likely to aim for a few more bucks than the Lakers are willing to pay for guaranteed back-up guys. I'm going to pencil in Derek Fisher for a return, but it's probably going to be at a reduced role for the first time if Mr. Buss' wallet has anything to say for it. The two needs that that leaves the champs with is a starting-caliber point guard as well as a wing who preferably is a knockdown shooter.

This two part checklist will have to be accomplished in tiers. We'll either have to snatch a top tier wing with the full midlevel exception and a lesser-noted PG with whatever pennies are left, or the other way around. For the wing position, the prime candidate is easily Mike Miller. And the Lakers for sure know that. The early word is they've already thrown $30 million at him and are trying to force him into an immediate agreement on it. It's easy to understand why, as Miller is probably one of the ten best long-range bombers in the league today, hitting 48% of his 3s last season with the Wizards. If he can stay healthy for the length of the season, an Artest/Miller wing combo next to Kobe Bryant is perfect for literally any individual situation. Next to Miller, I like T-Mac as a darkhorse candidate. If he's serious about wanting to win a fricking playoff series in his career, he just needs to sign with L.A. regardless of the money. If those guys happen to fall through, the 2A, 2B, and 2C options are guys like Raja Bell, Matt Barnes, and Anthony Morrow. If you can add a feared defensive specialist like Bell or Barnes in addition to Ron Ron, the Lakers can shut down any backcourt in the league. Any of these guys instantly add a far favorable stretch shooter who can get on the floor, unlike an Adam Morrison-type guy who is strictly a mop-up player. Who cares if Kobe innately hated these competitors when he matched up opposite against them?

Tier 1: Mike Miller, Tracy McGrady
Tier 2: Raja Bell, Matt Barnes, Anthony Morrow

Or L.A. could go a different direction with the MLE and offer it all to try and steal Steve Blake. Although the guy seems to be a guaranteed candidate to change teams darn near every single year, he's the kind of younger, heady veteran who could pick up the Triangle Offense pretty quickly and flourish specifically in that lead guard role. He's a tad taller at 6-3, which is what Phil prefers, and he just makes solid decisions with his 3-point shot and passing ability. He's a guy who's only averaged double figure points once in his career, but he's still a highly coveted player due to him having a seemingly perfect game to be the heir to Derek Fisher's place with the future Kobe Bryant era Lakers. The next group of potential point guards include Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour. Earl is completely deferential and as strong a defensive presence at the 1 as you will find, while Luke is the creative plug-in point who would hopefully nestle into a comfort zone since he wouldn't need to force the action as much as he previously did with Seattle and Milwaukee. After that, we might have to try to squeeze whatever is left from Gilbert Arenas' shooting partner for minimum money.

Tier 1: Steve Blake
Tier 2: Earl Watson, Luke Ridnour
Tier 3: Javaris Crittenton, anyone else

If only to fill out the league's required roster minimum, the Lakers might have to pick up their 2010 second round draft picks, Devin "Guy Who Ruined UK's Season" Ebanks and Derrick "UL Flunky" Caracter. And regardless of if we may have to look into flipping Lamar Odom for either cap relief or completely unforeseen available talent, I'm inclined to believe that the 2011 season will be another banner year for the Los Angeles Lakers. Phil Jackson wouldn't let it happen any other way.

... and do the John Wall.

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