The L.A. Lakers Are Positioning Themselves for the Future with Pau Gasol
The L.A. Lakers are not going to peak this year and Phoenix’s acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal was not a knee-jerk reaction (more on this later). I don’t know how they are going to do in the playoffs, but next year they are going to be devastating. Bynum is planning to come back in about a month, but his true impact will be felt next season.
I simply do not believe he will have enough time with the team to get back into shape and acclimate to his new power forward, Pau Gasol. Gasol and Kobe Bryant have gelled for a number of reasons, not the least of which are that they are smart, experienced, veteran All-Stars. I do not have a handle on Bynum’s basketball IQ, but he misses in those other three categories.
If I were a Lakers fan, I would not hold out too much hope for this year. Without Bynum returning to form, which is unlikely this year, Gasol does not really add the defensive post presence needed in the post-season. He is a fair defender and he can grab rebounds by the bushel when others on his team are boxing out, but Bynum is needed for that to happen. The Lakers’ post-season success may happen this year, but I wouldn’t count on it. The great thing about it is that the Lakers have these two great players who are only expected to put out a good showing this post-season. No pressure until the 2008-2009 season.
Next year, though – and the five or so that follow (until Bryant and/or Gasol flame-out – or maybe when Jerry Buss gives in to Kobe’s trade demands), the Lakers are going to be a juggernaut. Give 20-year-old Bynum an off-season and training camp to improve on his double-double stat line and work with these two All-Stars and the Lakers have three legitimate scoring threats. With Derek Fisher keeping everyone in line for the next few seasons, it is frightening prospect for the West.
Because the Gasol move helps the Lakers more next year (and the years after that) than this year, the Shaq trade cannot be considered a knee-jerk reaction to the Gasol trade. Very few Suns’ fans, except the Kool-Aid drinking die-hard optimists, believe Shaq will be helpful any further than this season and next. This move is also potentially a cap-killer that will tie the Suns’ finances up for years to come. That was a “win now” move whereas the Gasol move has upside in years to come vastly superior to any immediate upside.
Along those lines, the San Antonio Spurs are correct in thinking they do not have to make any moves for the play-off run this year. However, they better be thinking about next year already.