Friday, February 1, 2008

Highway (101) Robbery

How ya like Mitch Kupchak now?

I take back everything (well, some) I ever said about Kupchak and his idiotic trading pattern. Besides, trading a future All-Star in Caron Butler for Kwame "Doodoo" Brown, almost all of his moves have worked.

He got rid of Shaq when he was clearly physically in decline and wanted too much money, and now you look and the Diesel can't even make the All-Star game as a reserve. He drafted Andrew Bynum amid league-wide criticism and stubbornly held on to him through trade talks, amid league-wide criticism. Now the young Bynum is a double-double developing beast, a damaging knee injury not withstanding.

Jordan Farmar has become a reliable spark plug off the bench, Ronny Turiaf is an ultimate glue guy, and he and the Lakers organization stayed patient through Kobe's trade talk madness..

Now you can add today's move to his growing list of accomplishments.

Quite simply, the Lakers stole an All-Star-caliber big man for absolutely nothing. Kwame Brown was only kept around because of Bynum's injury; Javaris Chrittenton was the third guard on L.A.'s depth chart, and was a project with no real position, and Aaron McKie is more coach than player these days.

The Lakers do give up a couple of first round picks (2008 and 2010), but they should be a veteran-laden championship contending team by 2010 and won't really need them. You don't see the Spurs sweating over late-20s picks.

So what does this mean for the Lakers in the spring of 2008? They immediately move up a level in the stacked West. They went from a playoff lock with the emergence of Bynum giving them a chance to go deep to Bynum getting hurt and the Lakers being in jeopardy of falling out of the top 8 (and making room for my Rockets *sad*), and now they should be regarded as a team that should be expected to challenge for the West crown.

Their whole core is still intact, including their starting five. Gasol gives them not only a consistent low post threat in Bynum's absence, he provides a mid-range game young Andrew had not yet developed, and he is a very good shot blocker with those long arms. Not to mention his passing is a definite upgrade over Kwame (especially Kwame) and Bynum. And just think about a starting lineup of Fisher, Kobe, Odom, Gasol, and Bynum. Nasty.

Can they beat the Mavs? Yes. Suns? They already could with their young center beasting Phoenix's soft interior. Can they beat the Spurs? Probably not, but Pau Gasol surely gives them a better chance than Doodoo Brown.

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