2012 NBA Offseason: Los Angeles Lakers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Los Angeles Lakers (Last Year: 41-25)

2011-12 Season Summary:
Having won five NBA Championships since the turn of the 21st century, expectations have pretty much become ring or bust for the Los Angeles Lakers. This season, the franchise once again failed to meet that lofty standard.

The Lakers own version of the Big 3 did their part in trying to carry the team to the Promised Land. Though he didn�t shoot the ball all that well, Kobe Bryant once again played near an MVP level, constantly putting the team on his back. Their inside duo of Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol was able to stay healthy, with Bynum posting career numbers and finally emerging as that dominant post presence that he had shown flashes of becoming for the past few seasons. Gasol really struggled during the postseason however, reigniting discussions that he needs to be traded this offseason.

Where in years past, role players came up huge for the the Lakers; that was not the case this year. Management made a major change at point guard, trading long-time veteran Derek Fisher and replacing him with Ramon Sessions. Sessions didn�t provide the upgrade Los Angeles was hoping for while Steve Blake was mediocre at best in his reserve role.

Metta World Peace (I still can�t believe I actually have to write that) had his worst season as a pro and split time with Matt Barnes at small forward. Free agent acquisitions Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy were especially disappointing in their first seasons for the Lakers and eventually saw diminished roles off the bench when Jordan Hill was brought over from Houston in the Fisher deal.

2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Andrew Bynum

PF: Pau Gasol/Josh McRoberts

SF: Metta World Peace/*Devin Ebanks

SG: Kobe Bryant/Christian Eyenga

PG: Steve Blake/Andrew Goudelock/*Darius Morris

NBA Free Agents:

*PG-Darius Morris (RFA)

*SF-Devin Ebanks (RFA)

PG-Ramon Sessions (UFA)

PF-Jordan Hill (UFA)

SF-Matt Barnes (UFA)

PF-Troy Murphy (UFA)

2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $75.8 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Shop Pau: Since the Lakers are already massively over the salary cap, they have very little flexibility in free agency. The easiest way to create a deeper, more well-rounded team would be trading Pau Gasol for several assets. His $19-million contract won�t be easy to move, but L.A. should explore possible trade partners. The Lakers don�t need to trade Gasol, but shopping him like they did last summer could net them some needed depth and help in other areas.

2. Point Guard: With Ramon Sessions opting out of the final year on his contract and becoming a free agent, L.A. is once again searching for an answer at point guard. To put it bluntly, the Lakers simply cannot expect to go into next season with Steve Blake as their starter and contend for a NBA title.

If L.A. doesn�t land a floor leader in a trade for Gasol, the team will have to use its mid-level exception on a point guard, and there are some quality veterans on the market who could aptly fill this void.

3. Wing Scorer: Besides Kobe, Matt Barnes was the Lakers next leading wing scorer, averaging a pedestrian 7.8 points per game, and he is a free agent. Ideally, Los Angeles should search for a wing scorer who can help take some of the load off Kobe�s shoulders.

4. Frontcourt Depth: With Josh McRoberts being the lone backup post player on the roster, the Lakers need to find some better depth up front. Andrew Bynum was able to stay healthy for the most part this past season, but with his injury history, it�s always better to have an extra body or two inside.

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