Kobe is 33, can the Lakers take advantage of his talents before they start to fade?
Kobe is 33, can the Lakers take advantage of his talents before they start to fade? inquisitr.com

After being knocked out of the playoffs in the second round for the second straight season on Monday night, it is clear that the Lakers are going to need some help if they are going to compete in the new Western Conference.

For most teams, the Lakers recent history would not be looked upon with any malice. After winning back-to-back titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10, the Lakers have won the Pacific Division twice and been no worse than a No. 3 seed in the playoffs.

The Lakers have won two playoff series in the past two seasons, one less than the Los Angeles Clippers have in their franchise history. But for the Lakers, where anything short of another championship banner is failure, this season hurts.

But the hurt is worse due to the difficulty in fixing it. The Lakers are old, especially among their stars and especially in comparison with other top teams in the West; Kobe Bryant is 33, Pau Gasol is 31 and Metta World Peace is 32.

The Lakers are also handicapped financially. Bryant, Gasol, and World Peace cost the Lakers $53 million next season. Andrew Bynum also has a $16 million team option that the Lakers are likely to pick up, meaning they will have $69 million tied up in a core that has proven itself unable to defeat the Thunder, as Bryant now knows.

They grew up watching me, Bryant said after game five. It's like I'm playing a mirror image of myself in [Russell] Westbrook, [James] Harden and [Kevin] Durant. You've just got to dig deep and fight 'em back.

The Lakers will have a pick late in the first round next season, which likely won't bring them an impact player, which means that if Los Angeles wants to upgrade for next season they will need to be active on the trade market.

One of the most obvious trade possibilities and one that has been discussed in rumors over the past few weeks is Gasol to Orlando for Dwight Howard. The deal would let the Lakers get younger and stronger underneath, an area they have been exposed in.

The deal is intriguing, but the Magic fired Stan Van Gundy at Howard's behest this week and it doesn't seem likely that they would get rid Van Gundy and Howard in the same offseason.

If the Lakers want another big man, then they could in the market for Lamar Odom ahead of the NBA Draft in late June. Odom flamed out and was put on the inactive list after being traded from Los Angeles to Dallas just before the season.

Odom's problems were mostly mental. He was hurt and shocked by Los Angeles' decision to trade him and he never recovered. Maybe going back home would help him to be better next season.

The Mavericks have several choices with Odom. He has an $8.2 million team option for next season but Dallas will not pick it up unless they do it as part of a trade. They could just decline to pick up the option and wash their hands of him, but after giving up a first round pick to get Odom that move doesn't make much sense either.

The best bet for Dallas would be to swap him with a team that does want to pick up his option, or give him an extension, and LA could be that team.

But both Dallas and Los Angeles are over the salary cap, so to make that deal work the Lakers would have to send either World Peace or a combination of Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts and Jordan Hill to Dallas, likely along with a pick.

Whether or not either squad has interest in a deal like that remains to be seen, but Odom would certainly be an upgrade over McRoberts or Hill from LA's bench.

Los Angeles has many options to rebuild their team, but with the window closing on Bryant's dominance, the Lakers and especially general manager Mitch Kupchak, will need to pull off some dazzling moves this offseason to keep the Lakers relevant.

Kupchak thought he had the whole mess solved last year before his three-way deal that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers was voided by the NBA's front office.

But through it all, the face of the franchise isn't worried.

It's tough right now to really process what exactly we need, Bryant said. But that's something we've been great at as an organization. Mitch has really done a phenomenal job the past decade in building title teams pretty quickly.

We just have to do it again.