It's Still All About the Matchups!
While the Lakers front office strategizes how to return the team to championship contention and escape from luxury tax purgatory, they will focus on upgrading the roster to better match up with the younger, faster, and more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, who will meet tonight in the NBA Finals. Just as the Lakers acquired Michael Thompson to matchup with Celtics’ Kevin McHale and Robert Horry to match up with the Spurs’ Tim Duncan, the Lakers’ challenge this offseason will be to improve their matchup with the Thunder’s Big 3 of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden and Heat’s Big 3 of James, Wade, and Bosh.
Forget all the naïve rhetoric you hear from the national sports media about how the NBA game has changed. The simple reality is that it’s really the dominant players who have changed rather than the NBA game itself. If you want to win an NBA championship, you used to have to matchup with Kobe Bryant, which is why the OKC Thunder added Thabo Sefolosha and the Miami Heat added Shane Battier as they built their rosters. Considering that the Thunder and Heat are both led by dynamic, high scoring small forwards, the Lakers also need to find a better long term matchup at the 3 than World Peace to compete against OKC and Miami.
When you look closer at the Lakers second round loss to the Thunder, it’s also easy to see that, in addition to help at small forward, the Lakers also need to find a better solution at point guard than Ramon Sessions, who was badly outplayed by Russell Westbrook, a tougher more physical player at power forward than Pau Gasol, whose passivity cost the Lakers dearly for a second year in a row, and a scorer of the bench who can get his own shot like OKC’s James Harden and give the Lakers bench some desperately needed firepower. Bottom line, the Lakers need to improve their matchups at every position but shooting guard and center.
Considering the financial obstacles and competitive hurdles the Lakers need to overcome, I expect Mitch Kupchak to return to the failed offseason Chris Paul trade nixed at the last minute by Commissioner David Stern and the failed Michael Beasley trade vetoed at the last minute by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. Trading Pau Gasol and Steve Blake to Houston for Kevin Lowry, Luis Scola, and the #16 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and trading Jordan Hill or Josh McRoberts to Minnesota for Michael Beasley transform the Lakers into a younger, faster, and tougher team that better matches up with the OKC Thunder and Miami Heat.