Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

 —  November 16, 2004

I’m not a patient person, and apparently neither are Laker fans on the whole. While we give lip service to patience as this Laker team grows together and gets healthier, in our heads (not to mention various chat sites and call in shows) we start thinking about trades, tinkering with the lineup and otherwise formulating ways to make the Lakers start to win more than they lose and become a playoff team.

The problem is, there are not easy answers — if there were we already would see them in action. Everything has flaws.

Lets look at two of the ideas floating in the ether:

Moving Kobe to the point. Kobe is the best defender on the Lakers. Kobe is a very good ball handler and makes smart choices with the ball. Through the course of the season, more and more teams will try to deny Kobe the ball. So, why not move Kobe to the point?

This has some merrit, and I think we may see more of this, especially if the Lakers do not pick up a point guard at the trading deadline. To steal a Sports Guy line, let’s break this idea down Dr. Jack style:

Advantages: On defense, Kobe’s size, long arms and quickness would create problems for the Mike Bibby/Tony Parkers of the world, limiting their penetration. On offense, the Lakers starting line up of Kobe at the point, Butler at the two, Odom at the three, Grant at the four and Divac/Mihm in the middle would create matchup problems for other teams — that is a fast, tall and athletic backcourt. Who is Bibby/Parker going to guard?

Disadvantages: Kobe’s offensive effectiveness would likely diminish as he gets tired chasing around smaller guards all over the court (and, if his foot problem lingers, how will all this extra effort affect him). He may have play fewer minutes per game, and the Lakers need him on the court. In addition, if I were an opposing team, I would have that quick small point go at Kobe early, maybe get stripped a couple of times but also put a couple of fouls on Kobe. If he gets in foul trouble and has to sit for extended periods, the Lakers are considerably more vulnerable.

Trade for a point guard. First things first, trades in the NBA don’t happen right now, teams are still trying to see how everything fits together and how in (or out of) contention they are. Trade talk may start to pick up as we get closer to Santa’s annual journey, but things will not get serious until January and closer to the February trading deadline. So, this is all just idle speculation.

That said, there are two logical things we can say: 1)The Lakers biggest weakness so far is at point guard, and that’s what they’d like to get; 2) There is a glut of players (five) at small forward. So the fit we’re talking about here is small forward plus another body or draft pick for a pure point. Obviously, the better the player the more you have to give up, my guess is the Lakers will look for someone defensive minded and would give up one player and a draft pick or two players.

So, who does that put on the potential trading block? Probably Devean George Brian Cook, Luke Walton, and, while he’s a shooting guard he’s not playing much here, Kareem Rush.

The challenge here is the NBA’s salary for salary trade restrictions — a combo of Luke Walton and Kareem Rush, while giving your trading partner two young, good players, nets only a point guard earning $1.5 million or so. We’re talking a mid-level exception guy or someone probably underpaid, and getting teams to give up players that are underpaid is no easy task.

You can get a lot better player in the mix if you can get someone to take Devean George and his $4.5 million salary. The problem here is people have seen George play and don’t want to pay that much for him (neither do we, really).

In addition, the Lakers do not want to take on any long-term big contracts. The team as currently constructed will have a lot of cap space to go after free agents in a couple of years (right about when Yao Ming becomes a free agent). That puts another restriction on any trade from the Lakers end.

Kupceck has his hands full making a trade, Rudy T. has his hands full if no trade is made. There are no easy answers. And we just need to be patient.