The Lakers' brain trust: Mitch Kupchak, left, Jim Buss and Jerry Buss (Noah Graham / NBAE / Getty…)
1. Speedy and playmaking point guard. Here's a recipe. Add Derek Fisher's declining speed, sprinkle in inconsistent shooting from both Fisher and Steve Blake and mix in the backcourt's inconsistent playmaking. What comes out hardly looks pretty. The Lakers, according to Hoopstats.com, feature the league's least efficient point-guard tandem. Break it down further: The Lakers' backcourt ranks last in points per game (12.1), 27th in assists (6.1) and 23rd in shooting percentage (40%). To say the Lakers need to upgrade at point guard remains an understatement. Either via major trade (Deron Williams) or using the $8.9 million trade exception and first-round pick (for Ramon Sessions), the Lakers can't afford not to address this position.
There's still some productive qualities Fisher and Blake bring. Fisher carries the locker room clout and can still hit the occasional late-game shot. Blake shows in spurts some decent outside shooting and good chemistry in setting up Matt Barnes and Andrew Bynum. But the Lakers play clearly shows that's not enough.
2. Dwight Howard. The Lakers already have good size in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but Howard is on a whole other level. Still, it's unlikely this will happen. The Lakers have indicated they won't trade both players, and various reports suggest Howard won't sign a contract extension if he lands with the Lakers. Securing Howard wouldn't fundamentally fix some of the Lakers' flaws, but it would give them a franchise player for the post-Kobe Bryant era.
3. Outside shooters. If the Lakers don't improve their last-place ranking in three-point shooting (30%), there's no way they can contend for a title. The Lakers offense will remain predictable. It will be easier for defenses to front the post. It will further lead Bryant to create on his own with mixed success. Rookie guard Andrew Goudelock has looked promising, shooting 37.5% from downtown. But he can't carry the load and it's unrealistic to think he can remain so prolific in the playoffs. Troy Murphy has shot 42.1% from three-point range, but his form remains flat and his shooting comes in spurts. The Lakers' hope that Jason Kapono (30.8%) would improve these numbers hasn't panned out. Here's a chance for the Lakers to use a mulligan.
4. Consistently productive small forward. The Lakers' success largely hinges on whether the Big Three in Bryant, Gasol and Bynum can consistently produce. It's an unfair formula considering how long the NBA season is, and that's where the small-forward position comes into play.
Metta World Peace has shown at times an ability to play lock-down defense and provide secondary scoring. Matt Barnes proves efficient on making off-ball cuts, hustle plays and good swing passes. But the weaknesses attributed to World Peace (bad shooting, inconsistent focus) and Barnes (silly fouls, missed bunnies) often offset their effectiveness. Acquiring a more consistent small forward (Minnesota's Michael Beasley) would give the Lakers more scoring relief.
5. More reliable reserves. The Lakers remain strapped financially because of long-term contracts and a concern about minimizing their luxury taxes because of a new collective bargaining agreement. So it's likely the Lakers won't make a big deal. The Lakers can still make tweaks, and this area proves most realistic. The Lakers bench remains last in the NBA in efficiency. It's unlikely that will improve unless the roster looks different.
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