For all the criticism General Manager Mitch Kupchak has faced over the years from trading Shaquille O'Neal to his refusal to trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd while alienating then 29-year-old Kobe Bryant, he has done a masterful job of assembling this roster.
If the Lakers are the NBA's Mount Olympus that all major market franchises aspire to be (see: Knicks), Kupchak has played his role as Zeus casting trades and contract offers, instead of thunderbolts, to perfection. Trading a quartet of draft picks for Steve Nash would not have been possible if it were not for the $8.9 million exception Kupchak acquired by making the unpoular decision to dump Lamar Odom on Dallas.
I don't like it, Bryant said in December about getting too little for Odom. Did we give up too little? What did we get?
He has been heavily criticized, but stealing Nash from the Knicks was a game changer akin to the Great Memphis Grizzlies Robbery of 2008 that produced Pau Gasol. But if Kupchak wants to squeeze a few more championships out of Kobe Bryant before the NBA legend meets his expiration date at the end of his current contract in 2015, the Lakers have to get younger. Luckily, they have a few more options left to exhaust.
Trade Pau Gasol For Hawks' Josh Smith
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The Hawks were prepared to offer their 26-year-old power forward in exchange for Pau Gasol last week. However, they reneged after Mitch Kupchak insisted on acquiring point guard Jeff Teague as well. By trading for two-time MVP Steve Nash, the Lakers killed two birds with one stone by improving their outside shooting and point guard situation in one fell swoop. Nash's arrival makes trading Gasol very straightforward. It now becomes an exchange of power forwards.
Josh Smith's skill set is very similar to a young Shawn Marion, who was successful with Nash in Phoenix. Smith and Howard, who won the 2003 AAU national championship with the Atlanta Celtics, are still friends. Presumably, a trade for Smith would make the Lakers a more attractive destination for Howard. To get Howard, L.A. needs Smith. Like Howard, Smith wants to be traded and will be a free agent in 2013.
After dangling Gasol like marshmallows over a campfire for two seasons, there's no way he can withstand the constant rumors while watching his value plummet, being misused as a stretch four in Mike Brown's offense and becoming the Lakers fourth option behind Nash, Bryant and Bynum. His passing acumen wouldn't have been as missed if the Lakers still ran Phil Jackson's triangle offense, which executed offensive sets through Gasol in the high post.
Trade Andrew Bynum For Dwight Howard
If reports are true that the Magic have offered Howard for Bynum, the Lakers should jump on this trade as long as Howard agrees to sign an extension. Realistically, Howard has no other options as his indecision has cut off his paths to Brooklyn, Dallas and Chicago. While Bynum's potential is exciting, the 26-year-old Howard has already reached his. And despite the historically awful handling of his never-ending agency, he's still the top center in the NBA today.
Bynum has more offensive upside and better post moves, but, defensively, Howard is a game changer that still averaged more points and rebounds per game than his Lakers counterpart. More importantly, he's much more consistent than Bynum -- he doesn't bring any long-term injury or character issues.
Acquire Jason Richardson As Part of Trade
Earlier, this week there were reports that the Magic would attempt to unload shooting guard Jason Richardson in any deal involving Howard. The Lakers would be wise to include him in a potential swap for Metta World Peace. Behind the two NBA All-Star slam dunk titles is a three-point marksman who enjoyed some of his best years alongside Nash in Phoenix.
His contract is one year longer than World Peace's but Richardson fills a need as L.A. had the fifth worst three-point shooting team last season. Both Nash and Howard have excelled when surrounded by skilled shooters because of their ability to draw defenders into the lane and away from the perimeter. Richardson is a career 37 percent shooter from behind the arc and still holds the Warriors single-game franchise record for three pointers made without missing.
Resign Jordan Hill
While Grant Hill weighs his decision to retire or join Steve Nash, the Lakers should concentrate on a player that's on the other side of the hill. Jordan Hill, standing 6 '10, saw limited minutes after being traded to L.A. before the deadline. But in the playoffs against Denver, he delivered a few double-double performances off the bench.
For his career, Hill has averaged 13.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes, and many observers in L.A. believe he can be a valuable backup for the Lakers if given more playing time. However, Hill is currently a free agent who may be looking for paydays from Minnesota or Golden State.
Engaging in such a drastic roster turnover has its risk, but the Lakers will be a younger, more athletic unit that can match up better with the reigning Western Conference Champions.