NBA / Jun 18, 2008 / 2:42 pm

What’s the missing piece from the Lakers’ puzzle?

Kobe BryantWhat does Kobe want? (photo. Sembrot)

Immediately after the Yankees lost in game six of the 2003 World Series to the Marlins, the New York papers we’re combing through free agent listings, dearly hoping to find a player who would push them over the hump the following year. Later that winter, George Steinbrenner inked Alex Rodriguez to the world’s biggest contract. Unfortunately for Mitch Kupchak, there’s no basketball equivalent of A-Rod on the market right now. But there still are some big names they could add to fortify a championship push…

Ron Artest (Player option @ $8.4 mil) – Despite news today that Ron-Ron is “99% sure” that he won’t opt out of his contract come July 1, the Lakers brass could make him a sweet offer to act on that 1% to come and be L.A.’s defensive stopper. After the Spurs series, people were giddy in Southern California thinking that one morning they woke up and Sasha Vujacic became a defensive juggernaut. Those people were dreaming. Ray Allen exposed Vujacic once, and the Celtics’ ball movement proved him to be a liability in game six. Plus, Artest’s gritty toughness helps to compensate for the Pillsbury doughboy softness of Odom and Gasol.

Baron Davis (Player option @$17.1 mil) – One of the biggest issues last night for the Lakers was that Kobe couldn’t get any easy buckets. He was hitting step-back triples in the first quarter, but eventually he needed to score in the paint if the Lakers were to hang. Adding Boom would create easy open looks in the half court set and would help the Lakers get out in transition, too. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he’s from area.

Josh Smith (Restricted Free Agent) – This is actually a terrifying thought. If the Lakers parted ways with Lamar Odom and threw a bundle at J-Smoove, they get significantly better on both sides of the ball. Maybe he was too young to understand the magnitude of the playoffs, but Smith didn’t seem fazed at all by the mighty Celtics in the first round – which is another way to say that he won’t completely disappear during big games. He’s a game-changer on defense, and enough of a matchup problem that he can get to the line 6-10 times a night.

Antawn Jamison (Unrestricted Free Agent) – If they could pry him from the Wizards’ mortal grip, wouldn’t Jamison be ideal? He’s more aggressive than Odom and a better rebounder.

Gilbert Arenas (Unrestricted Free Agent) – More than any of the other situations, adding Gilbert could be like adding A-Rod. At times, he’s one of the most exciting players in the League. But he’s also a walking media circus who takes too many shots. Is Los Angeles big enough for him and Kobe?

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  • for real

    That’s what they’re missing

  • fallinup

    In short, I agree with post #1…they need some damn ballz.

    Obviously, the Lakers need a defensive minded big man. If Bynum steps up to be that man, then a defensive minded back up to spell Bynum and keep Pau at the 4 at all times.

    A tough swing man in the same ilk as Posey or Bowen to take out the opposing team’s best scorer. Kobe shouldn’t be guarding the team’s best guy, they need Kobe to score.

    I don’t think any huge moves are needed overall. Dropping 2-3 good vets on that bench would do wonders. Somebody strong, someone to give L.A. that tough guy swagger.

    No more starting Vlad…thats for damn sure.

  • rangerjohn

    i say they trade odom for robert horry in a sign and trade!

  • fallinup

    rangerjohn, I hope you’re joking…unless you wanna give Pop a damn heart attack. LOL

    I think I’d just keep the bones of Horry over Odom if I was him.

  • Brown

    And with what money do you think they can do this???

    The Lakers are already over the cap for next season, unless it’s raised, but that still doesn’t give them much wiggle room. Unless they sign-and-trade for them, the most they have to offer is the $6 million mid-level exception. None of these players would take that kind of paycut.

    And who do the Lakers have to dangle as trade bait? They’re not trading Bynum, Gasol or Bryant, so really they’ve got nothing to offer.

    The Lakers aren’t in very good shape to improve significantly through free agency. The only way it will happen is with another Gasol-like trade, and I don’t see any GM in the league being that stupid. Not even Kevin McHale would want the Lakers’ shitty spare parts.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    They could sign James Posey on the cheap but Josh Smith or Jamison would be deal. No room for Gilbert and Kobe on the same squad.

  • rob stewart

    just get bynum healthy and play Turiaf more. They need to pick up a hungry D-league defensive specialist (think young Bruce Bowen).

  • doc

    Yeah they need balls but they should take Ron Ron Jamison or Josh.

  • yallallreadyknow

    i bet they miss kwame brown now huh?

  • Brown

    Sorry, I was looking at next year’s salaries. But that still doesn’t leave LA with much to offer.

    Odom $14.5 mill
    Radmanovic $6 mill
    Fisher $4.6 mill
    Walton $4.4 mill
    Vujacic $2.6 mill
    Farmar $1 mill

    Unless they can trade Odom for a package of two or more players, I don’t see them getting better. After Odom’s bad performance in these playoffs, his only value right now is his expiring contract.

  • rangerjohn

    brown is exactly right, the lakers are already over the lux tax of just over 70 mil (they own 75+ already) and they have 11 guys under contract next season. the best thing they have going for them is the fact that odom is an expiring 14 mil, and chris mihm can opt out of his 2.5 (like he is going to give that payday up lol)

    fallinup, yeah i was joking, although i would rather see a josh smith on the spurs then anyone else out there.

    i dont see the lakers making much noise in the off season, they are pretty stuck unless there can swindle another team for a name like they did the griz

  • Daily boy

    That’s right Kobe & Gil wouldn’t make it past training camp without fighting. Either Artest or Jamison make the most since, but if Bynum come back heathly next season, folks better watch out.

  • Tom

    I really like Jamison, but you’ve got to remember that Bynum is returning next year, which probably means they move Gasol over to four, with Odom at 3, Kobe at 2, and Farmar at 1. I highly doubt that Jamison can play the 3. The question for the Lakers next year is really whether Odom can defend at the 3. If he can, then they’ve got a huge lineup that should dominate the boards, clog the lane on defense, and dominate in the paint. I’m not sure they really need to change things very much.

  • Gary

    these kind of articles are retarded . . . anyone can come up with “dream” scenarios . . . real basketball aficionados take into account salary cap situations and relevant contracts

    Possible Deals:

    Artest for Lamar – Straight up
    Lamar and Vlade for Caron Butler
    Lamar for Udonis

    i hate to say this, but we need a James Posey type thug

  • dh

    i don’t think they “need” another piece (although Artest in there would be a dream). i think if the young guys continue to make some improvements leading into next year and with Bynum back we should be okay. Barring injuries, I would say they should be favorites -behind Boston- for the championship.
    Anyhow, we are going to see some great basketball for the next 5 years and that is exciting.

  • sam

    I kept telling everyone to get josh smith and drop lamar!!!

    and no one would get off his nuts until now…

    james posey and josh smith!

    or shawn marion if he wants to stop whining and start winning

  • Lorenzo

    Jamison a better rebounder than Odom?!?
    You must be joking!

  • Celts Fan

    Lamar’s deal is expiring next year, so that makes it appealing. You could deal Lamar and some draft picks for Ron Artest and start Fisher, Kobe, Artest, Gasol, and Bynum and have a hell of a squad.

    Realistically, a healthy Bynum and Ariza for an entire year combined with a full training camp/preseason for these guys to play together should do the trick. I’m shocked they did as well as they did for a team thrown together so late in the year.

  • dh

    @ celts fan: agree with all of that ^

    And if we could get Artest for Odom straight up? I’d take that in a second. Would that really be a fair trade for Sac though? Seems even to me.

  • rangerjohn

    dh there is no “lamar for artest straight up” they only make about 6 million difference between their contracts.

  • Brandon Hoffman

    The Lakers need a healthy return of Andrew Bynum and another perimeter defender.

    Everyone is down on Lamar right now but he was instrumental in the regular season and the first three rounds.

  • shake&bake

    Artest would be great for them as a stopper. I think Ariza can be a decent stopper off the bench. I also think Boom Dizzle would help them out a lot in terms of someone who is willing to get to the basket besides Kobe. Odom has the ability to get to the basket but is soft a cotton.

  • Jim

    So, Yankees have been doing better since they signed A-Rod?

  • Yoooo

    I would love Josh Smith, Artest or Jamison. They may be too pricey tho. One player think would do well since he has no conscious and enjoys playing D periodically is Stephen Jackson. And it don’t get much more thug than that idiot. I don’t like him off the court but on the court he’s cold blooded. And he comes with championship experience. Hed be a good look. Send Odom and Vlad and maybe a pick for Jackson and one of their young talents. Bellinelli maybe? Id do it. And im a Laker fanatic.

  • bron42 aka coffee black

    Trade odom and a pic for marion.reuniting odom and wade plus giving the heat another yung guy to draft, while giving kobe his pippen

  • Uhm…

    how many of these players can they actually sign under the current salary cap? and even if they can sign any of them, will the new player’s big contract get in the way of resigning bynum later on?

  • Myrie

    I have no doubts most of you will enjoy this.
    Do you think you know enough about basketball pictures to spot the differences?

    check it out…pics of past NBA Finals. Can you find the differences?

  • George

    Artest would be nice, Josh Smith is too good to be true. But a viable option is Garbajosa. Just released from his contract with the Raptors, a great friend with Gasol, and a true warrior who wears his heart on his sleeve.

  • rodnets

    BALLS, learn to play defense, team play.
    its not just a couple of players

  • bron42 aka coffee black

    Garbajosa? lol your kidding right? just what the lakers need, another international flopper. Why not trade for delfino too. Not to mention at the moment Garbajosa is pretty much a peg leg and while he wears his heart on his sleeve would make noooooooooooooooooooooo difference what so ever. I’m sure they could get walter hermann too for $5

  • tcfunk

    Gasol Needs Courage
    Odom Needs Heart
    Vujacic needs Brains

    Koby needs to click his heals and pray!

  • Big Freeze

    According to every Laker fan, Bynum is the missing link, or piece that they need to finally win the chip. It’s a bet that Kobe and the Lakers are going to dominate the offseason news with Kobe whining about a trade while Steven A Smith massages his feet. Who cares about the Lakers (besides millions of fairweather fans)?

  • Uhm…

    probably a lot of ppl, especially compared to other teams.

  • Lady Luck

    Given all of the injuries and trades that happened this year, I think the Lakers exceeded expectations. I am a tried and true Laker fan saying that. I knew we were good, but Western Conference Championship material during the regular season???? Watch out league because I think the Lakers will be fine next year with Bynum and Ariza back. Hopefully Mihm can get healthy because he was a decent backup before all the injuries. If we can find a way to get rid of Radmonovich even better. I’m sure some GM was looking at Radmonovich thinking “I can use him off the bench in spot minutes to hit a couple of threes”…..or at least I HOPE some GM saw his play and said that! NO WAY that man should be starting on a championship team. He doesn’t deserve a ring…he sucks! I see why Coach Phil calls him a space cadet. Don Nelson might like him…we’ll trade him for Matt Barnes, hell that O’Bryant dude that can’t get off the bench…somebody???anybody??? HELP!

    He’s the Laker version of Damon Jones!

  • PJ 310

    I think the Lakers have a nice defensive swingman in Trevor Ariza, who didnt play that much this series since coming back from injury, if anything I trade Radmanovic for a veteran hard-nose big man ie: PJ Brown and hope Bynum comes back healthy enough to pick up where he left off last season. You have to remember this team is gonna get better because: 1)they only played about 20-30 games together as a unit this past season 2) They get back a player in Bynum who if not injured would have been in the top 2 or 3 votes for Most Improved Player. 3) They gained experience in the Finals

    Every team goes through some kind of heartache before they can become champions, so i think they are on their way.

  • PJ 310

    For everyone hating on Sasha, I would rather have him on my team than a guy who did’nt even try on defense and he’s a good shooter who u can’t leave on defense. He got burned that one play with Ray Allen in game 4 but that one play didnt make or break the Lakers, it was a total team breakdown.

  • the fan

    i say that the lakers need to trade odom and mihm to the bucks for mo williams and yi jinlian and a draft pick

  • Remy N

    Starting Unit

    5. Bynum
    4. Gasol
    3. Odom – His natural position.
    2. Kobe.
    1. Fisher


    5. DJ Menga/ Mihm
    4. Ronny
    3. Vlad. Luke
    2. Sasha, Trevor
    1. Jordan

    Needs a big man and a small forward.

    Just a small forward, someone to defend the 3.

  • K Dizzle

    Totally agree with post 21

    @ Remy – we already got Ariza. He was doin good defensive work til he bust his foot.Maybe Dorsey or another young big will fall to us in the draft. Good depth this year.

    Articles like these are just stupid.
    Team A gets to the Finals without a major piece and lose because of a lack of defense and rebounding and inside scoring which the major piece could help with.

    Do you A)Bring back everybody healthy hoping a full year brings improvements?
    or B) Write a stupid article callin for a major piece to be brought in or a trade?
    Junk like this is why Phoenix traded Marion and that worked out real well.

  • Stiletto

    they should really take a look at Jorge Garbajosa he could be the mean version of vlad he is a great player to bring from the bench

  • Bone

    Why in the hell is everyone acting like Bynum is the missing link? You would think that he was Kareem coming back. Give me a break. The guy has had ONE HALF OF ONE GOOD SEASON and he is going to push the Lakers over the top? All of a sudden he went from being the next Michael Olawokandi to the next Shaq in a half of a season? Please. Everyone who is acting like he is going to swing the balance of power out west is absurd.

  • Ding Dong We Got The 6th Pick

    Bone. Word.
    Just throwing it out there, but I think Shawn Kemp could be got for cheap. Also, if you are going to get rid of Vlad, you got to get another European in return. Garbo is off to Spain (?).

  • DaPro

    Getting Bynum back healthy for a full season is like adding a free agent. He changes the Lakers roster and makes them bigger, stronger, and slightly tougher

    Ariza can develop into a decent 3 as long as he improves on his game. Defensively he can solid, just don’t ask him to guard Paul Pierce straight up.

  • Celts Fan

    Simple Bone:

    Bynum, at worst, is a big guy that can take up space and block shots. You put him in, it lets Pau and/or Lamar play the 4 (so the guy guarding him is smaller so his softness doesn’t come out as much) and gives you another big body (their BIGGEST body) on the boards/on D. You can either start Lamar at the 3 (I’d start Ariza for his defense personally) or have him come in as one of the most talented backups in the league. That changes A LOT for that team and addresses a lot of their flaws (in theory.)

  • GEE…doing the wop, running man, cabbage patch and mudfoot

    I most def. think Ron would add a toughness and defense that the Lakers would need. The co-existing with Kobe and others thing is the problem.

    Still I think that would be the move.

  • Michael

    And the Yankees haven’t won jack shit since.

  • Len Bias

    Two words:
    Paul Shirley

  • Len Bias

    LA needs to bring back the Mad Dog too.

  • basketballcomments

    Hi All,

    Check out this site:

    This blog has been created for people to comment on articles that where they were originally sourced from do not allow comments – I was getting so infuriated with one-eyed reporting that I made this for people to respond, and perhaps the author seeing it one day to see what readers really think.

    First on the block – Bill Simmons of ESPN


  • young k

    get rid of Radmanovic. Doesn’t matter how, have him killed if neccessary. Dude is hopeless.

  • K Dizzle

    @ bone -
    Michael Olawokandi? When Kandi man was this age, he was a sophomore in college and that “one half of a good season” helped the Lakers to the top half of the west. Why you shit on a dude makin a difference when you never seen him play with Gasol? AB ain’t kareem or Shaq, but even Boston couldn’t have won without Perkins so who would you rather have? I’m hopin he’s somewhere between Kandi and Kareem cuz a healthy Bynum coulda helped this season and will definitely help next season

  • chibi

    Farmar + Odom + 2009 1st round pick for Mike Dunleavy + Jeff Foster + Indiana’s #11 pick

  • JRUF

    Josh Smith would be awesome. I’d give up Lamar for him, and I have supported Lamar since he was in Rhode Island!

  • JRUF

    Asides from Smith, how about signing Kwame to the midlevel?! He has to be an upgrade from Mihm, Mbenga, Newble.

  • The Dude Abides

    Lamar Odom (expiring contract 13.25mm) and LA’s first round picks in 2012 and 2014 to New Jersey for Richard Jefferson (3 yrs 12.2mm per yr) and NJ’s first round pick in 2008 (#10). The Nets clear cap space for Lebron when he opts out in a couple years and they move to Brooklyn. This trade also works as a straight up swap of LO and RJ.

    Artest would be a lousy fit with regard to team chemistry, mastering the triangle, and listening to the coaches. With RJ you have none of those problems. While I love LO, he’s not an outside shooter, so teams will just pack in the paint against a front line of Bynum, Gasol, and Lamar. Replace LO with RJ and that problem goes away. Also, RJ is quick enough to defend the best SFs, while LO isn’t.

  • shake&bake

    Artest was on the Bulls when they were trying to still run the triangle because some people thought the triangle was the key to their championships instead of having Mike and Pip. I think there wouldn’t be too much of a learning curve for him in terms of that plus he gives them the hard nosed lock down defender that they need. Can you imagine Kobe and Artest locking down other teams wings?

  • Dino

    This was the worse NBA Finals I have ever seen. If this is where the NBA game is at, I cannot wait for the start of the College Season! Nobody boxed anybody out, no one challenged shots, a wide-open pick-up game with 20 point swings, day in and day out! If this is basketball that these talented individual acrobats played, the NBA game is finished. Coaches that are clueless, and players that just run and shoot are not what makes this game interesting. By the way, did anyone ever tell Kobe Bryant that it is OK to catch the ball and quick-release a jumper without dribble, dribble, dribble! Duh…..I played the game for 25 years. The media spoke of good defense, and all I saw was sloppy passing and poor shot selection coupled with an absence of fundamentals by both teams! No wonder we get our butts kicked in international play!

  • Eric Cartman

    While the thought of having a frontline of Bynum, Gasol and Odom sounds great, the problem is that it will allow defenses to clog the lane because right there you have three players who have below average jumpshots. And Odom and Gasol aren’t consistent scorers on the inside(or anywhere), and neither is Bynum. Either Odom or Pau has to come off the bench or the Lakers are going to struggle to score.

  • Kermit the Washington

    Artest or Josh Smith. Odom’s nice, but he disappears too often.

  • Kermit the Washington

    Oh my God Dino, the Bob Cousy days are DONE, get over it…

  • Dave


    Interior Defense – Bynum will bring some of that

    Rebounding – Bynum will bring nearly all of that

    A Top Defensive Small Forward


    Only three teams in the East can win. Their small forwards are LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Rashard Lewis/Hedo Turkoglu. The Lakers need a top defensive small forward to be able to compete against these top Eastern teams.

    Also out West Peja Stojakovic killed them in the regular season. He isn’t a hard guy to stop. Just needs some defensive discipline from someone. Chances are that LA will have to face the Hornets and you don’t want to start giving them three legit 20ppg scoring options to start off every game. Wow not too many other high scoring small forwards amongst the 6 best teams out West.

  • al

    Dead on when you said Balls were missing, the Celtics castrated them. Kobe is a gentleman, Phil is a superb coach but when you have players that are not willing to take a charge and play as a team you are lost. If Boston gets a better stong man than Perkins then they will repeat, every one else is in place

  • rell

    I think the only way the Kings would trade Artest to the Lakers for Odom is if they take back the contract of Kenny Thomas or Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The number would add up to be just about right for the trade. I think the Laker would have a better chance to get Posey but I hope the Celtics pony up the money and resign him back.

  • T.12

    Ron Artest would be an unbelievable addition to the Lakers. Phil Jackson would demand excellence from Artest and he would get results! Artest is as tough as they come, he is old school, he plays hardnosed D and he is a better offensive weapon then he is given credit for. Artest also brings experience, this current Laker squad just got dismantled by the older, wiser, Celtics. Kobe and DFish cannot be the only battle hardened veterans on the squad. Possible Lakers starting five: Kobe, DFish, Artest, Gasol, Bynum. Smooth… Another possiblity: Kobe, Artest, Odom, Gasol, Bynum. Good Night!

  • Al Bowsprit

    I’m neither a Celtics fan nor a Lakers fan – but I am a long-time NBA fan, who followed the whole season and watched all the playoff games closely.

    Having skimmed through all of these posts – mostly by Lakers fans – I think most of you are missing the boat. Yes, it will be better when you get Bynum back, although it’s still not 100% that he’ll grow into the super center that seems to be his promise. And yes, it might help to land Artest (assuming his character baggage doesn’t ruin it all). Yes, you would have been better off with Posey on your bench instead of on Boston’s. And yes, yes, it would be great to have Josh Smith – but 28 other teams also covet him – and he’s not available.

    What you really need is a new coach! Blasphemy, I know. You need Tom Thibodeau or someone like him. OK, Phil can stay as head coach (although I don’t think you need him – he came up with nothing in the finals) but bring in a defensive coordinator and teach/force the team to play defense. Bringing in one defensive player (Artest) doesn’t do it. The whole team has to commit to defense and the Lakers are woefully deficient in that department. A healthy Spurs team next year will prove it to you by knocking you out again. The good news is: most talented players can learn to play defense (cf. Ray Allen, Kobe) even if they’ve never done it before.

    I know it’s not “show time” but neither was the performance of the past two weeks.

  • Lorens Frans

    what the lakers need is toughness and heft inside
    they didnt even have an answer to the once-retired pj brown inside
    lakers got beaten with pj really, kurt thomas is another option
    other players that i hop will land to hollyball is ron artest, caron butler, reggie evans, jeff foster, nick collison, or even ike diogu