It’s offseason evaluation time! We’ll be splitting up the team-by-team assessments into several posts over the next week or so, starting here with teams that, at least from this vantage point, have little hindsight-based hand-wringing to do. Other posts will include teams that have us worried, teams that generally stood pat (and whether that was a good thing) and the teams that have us most intrigued based on the moves they made and the directions open to them now. Keep that last part in mind if you think your team had a successful offseason and it is not mentioned below.
For today: teams that made some fairly dramatic moves and should be very happy with them.
• Los Angeles Lakers
Offseason grade exercises are always tricky. Analysts aren’t in the room with general managers and are thus often in the dark about what directives ownership is giving and which alternative trades or signings are being discussed internally, discussed externally, nearly consummated or merely dreamed about. The ownership motivation isn’t a mystery in Los Angeles, though, even if the Lakers’ attitude toward spending has shifted from December until now: The Buss family wants to win championships, and while some franchises are happy with second-round playoff exits and capacity crowds, that won’t do for a team paying Kobe Bryant nearly $30 million per season and sitting one ring shy of Boston’s record.
The Lakers were 1-8 in second-round playoff games during the last two seasons. Though there were some close heart-breakers among those eight losses to Dallas and Oklahoma City, there were plenty of blowouts, and this team in the big picture graded out as nothing more than a solid playoff team. The Lakers needed a jolt, and with zero financial flexibility, GM Mitch Kupchak turned the only asset he had — the Lamar Odom trade exception — into point guard Steve Nash, one of the greatest offensive players in league history.
Forward Antawn Jamison also was added. He is a sieve on defense, but so was Troy Murphy, and Jamison can at least add some free throws and driving attacks to the Lakers’ second-unit offense. Re-signing Jordan Hill to an affordable deal without having his full Bird Rights was a nice get. Hill emerged at the end of last season as the team’s third-best big man, and given his potential as a defender, the Lakers will probably be better off if he wins the battle for that spot over Jamison next season.
There are still huge questions here, obviously. Getting even the sum of these superstar parts on offense is going to be difficult, Princeton offense or no, and this team as it stands is going to have work very hard to crack the top 10 in points allowed per possession.