From 2008-2010, Los Angeles was the class of the NBA. They made it to three straight NBA Finals, winning two in the process. Despite the emergence of LeBron James, many people still considered Kobe Bryant to be the best player in the league.
But the Lakers are a very different team these days.
A lot of their players are the same, but they aren't playing at the same level of a few years ago. Kobe Bryant is a few years older and not as effective as he was when L.A. was winning championships. Pau Gasol had his worst season as a Laker and Metta World Peace is a shell of his old self.
If the Lakers want to be able to compete for a championship within the next few years, they're going to have to make some changes. Kobe Bryant is still an elite scorer, but he can't win games by himself anymore. Los Angeles needs to put better pieces around Bryant if they want to compete in the Western Conference.
Besides Andrew Bynum, most of the Lakers' top players have seen their best days. Gasol, World Peace and Bryant will all be upward of 32 years old by the start of next season.
The Western Conference has multiple teams that are younger, with brighter futures than L.A. The Thunder, Clippers and Grizzlies all have a core of young stars, and the Spurs are always contenders.
Los Angeles won the Pacific Division, but still had their worst winning percentage sine the 2006-2007 season.
L.A. has a few pieces that could net them some good value. They have the luxury of having two seven-footers and can afford to deal one to shore up an area of weakness.
Pau Gasol is probably more expendable than Andrew Bynum. He is seven years older than Bynum and had the lowest scoring average of his career in the lockout-shortened season. He has also been criticized by Bryant, and failed to perform well in multiple playoff games.
Bynum emerged as an elite big man this past season. He was third in the league in rebounds and scored a career high 18.7 points per game. Despite his stellar play, he's had a few issues that might force the Lakers to trade him.
The center was benched by head coach Mike Brown earlier in the season, and he hasn't expressed a tremendous desire to stay in Los Angeles. Bynum has one year left on his contract, and the Lakers might not want to commit a lot of money to him. He was asked about his future after the Lakers were eliminated from the postseason and responded, It really doesn't matter to me. I'll play anywhere.
The Lakers need an upgrade at point guard and a deeper bench to have a shot at a championship. Either Gasol or Bynum could get Los Angeles a point guard in return. A point guard who can set up Bryant and one of the Lakers big men would go a long way in helping them get back to where they were just a few seasons ago.
There's almost no chance that Bryant will be traded, so he'll have to learn to play with his new limitations. He's no longer the best player in the NBA, and can't always look to take the last shot at the end of games.
As currently constituted, the Lakers can't win a championship; however, they have the right pieces to make the moves to become a title contender once again.