|That worked out well. (Getty Images)|
Over the next month, CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball will take a team-by-team look at the 2012 NBA offseason. Next up: the Los Angeles Lakers. You can find our offseason reports here.
I. How they finished 2012: Most teams with an aging core and a superstar trying to keep his body together in a lockout-shortened season would be happy with a second-round exit. Most teams trying to integrate a new coaching staff without a training camp, without adequate practice time, and attempting to switch the entire approach on both sides of the ball under a relentless, hurried schedule would be OK with things not going over like gangbusters. Most teams would be perfectly content with losing to the eventual conference champions.
The Lakers are not most teams.
It was a season of change, far too much of it for the schedule in Los Angeles, from the coaching staff to the roster to the approach. The Lakers began the year under auspicious circumstances as a failed trade for Chris Paul set a fire under the organization and not in a "boost them up" way. More in a "disintegrate the supporting structures" standpoint. Lamar Odom was so hurt over his involvement in the failed trade that he demanded an actual trade, and wound up sulking and fettering the year away in Dallas. Derek Fisher was moved at the deadline and Ramon Sessions was added. The Lakers looked like contenders at times, and an outright disaster at others.
They had tactical advantages over the Thunder, they had experience over the Thunder, they had opportunities against the Thunder. And they were ushered out like teenagers with their feet up in a movie theater. It was unceremonious; this for the most ceremonious team in the league, would not do.
II. Needs entering the offseason: Well, you know, an upgrade at point guard would be nice. And some bench depth really would be pretty good. But with that roster, how much better could the Lakers really get?
III. The Draft: The Lakers had sent their first-round pick to Cleveland for Ramon Sessions. They traded back into their second-round pick which they had sent to Dallas and acquired Darius Johnson-Odom. (Imagine me waving one finger in the air.)
IV. Free Agency: So...that happened.
On July 3rd, it was expected that the Lakers would re-sign Ramon Sessions at point guard and maybe make a few tweaks here and there. Mitch Kupchak did a few interviews in the days before saying that fans shouldn't expect any huge moves.
Instead, on July 4th, the Lakers executed a sign-and-trade for two-time-MVP, future Hall-of-Famer, and star point guard Steve Nash. It was a monstrous move, acquiring one of the best pure passing point guards in the league, who by the way has one of the best shooting strokes from the field, the arc, and the line in the league. Nash immediately has the ability to make the Lakers a contender. He can help Kobe Bryant lower his workload and be a more efficient scorer. He can help by creating points on his own, and should prove to be dominant with Pau Gasol in the pick-and-pop.
The concerns about Nash are centered around his age (38), his back (he's one of the best conditioned athletes in the league), and his defense (no one can point guards in this league anymore, they're all too good and too fast). But the advantages far outweigh those, and the Lakers can feel great about their offseason.
Oh, wait, that's right. They also pulled off the biggest trade since the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony, irrevocably altered the course of NBA history, landed the best center in the league and a perennial MVP candidate, and that's all to say they got Dwight Howard.
We've written tons about Howard going to the Lakers, and we'll be writing much more in the coming weeks. But for now, just understand that the Lakers landed a two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer and it wasn't the biggest move of their offseason.
Like I said, the Lakers are not most teams.
But that's not all, they improved their depth by adding Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. They're faster, smarter, more experienced, and more skilled at every position, essentially.
So, yeah, not a bad year for the Lakers.
V. Overall grade and accomplishments: A+
I'm not going to insult your intelligence by explaining this. I'll just simplify it.
The Lakers are very good.