I know we all have our expectations for next season. We want Dwight to resign, we wish the FO fire Mike D'Antoni AND bring back Phil, MWP to get amnestied, Pau to be traded etc. They all look fantastic but the fanbase might have to be realistic when the next season is of concern. This team doesn't much have option neither in financial term, nor roster-wise. We are stuck between now and future, shadowed by the glory of the past. It is better to keep things in perspective if we want to progress.
Mitch said singling out the reason for why the season turned out like this was difficult. He is right when you consider the new players brought in (Dwight, Nash, Meeks, Jamison, Clark, Duhon), systems that are implented (Princeton, Run&Gun, Kobe-oriented offense, and late in the season Pau assisted offense), and all those injuries (Nash, Blake, Pau, Hill, Dwight, MWP, Kobe, Jamison...) It was the most difficult season a team can face and we are even more frustrated because of the expectations and our 9 figure payroll. This offseason firstly starts with sharing out the blame. How much does the FO blame themselves for bringing such an old roster together? How do they explain the firing of Mike Brown just after the 5th game of the season when all things are considered? How much did it hurt to wait for Nash to come back (24 games to be exact) ? There are a lot of questions like this. D'Antoni surely mismanaged the roster but I believe if he had a preseason and came to know the players in hand, he could have done a better job. I think we all agree on that.
When you consider all these things, return of D'Antoni for the next season might not be such a surprising event. And I think we should all give it a thought when assessing our expectations. It might be good exercise to think what our team should look like next season under D'Antoni with what we have learned from 12/13 season so far.
1. D'Antoni's system usually features good perimeter shooters. And with Nash in helm, he did use them to team's advantadge. We weren't such a bad team this season in that department but we weren't a perimeter threat either. For Dwight to do his magic freely, we need spacing. So this is a win-win situation. We have to bring a sharpshooter to play SF, it is even better with athletic abilities as plus.
2. Bench.. Bench.. Bench.. When you look at all contenders, they have a 6th man type player. Thunder have Kevin Martin, Heat have Ray Allen. Spurs have Manu Ginobili, Knicks have J.R. Smith. Clippers have Jamal Crawford. To lesser extent Warriors have both Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. They are game changing players. That is why they assume that role. Now, why do we also need one? For one thing you can only go so far with your starting 5. They can't all perform to their best, they will get in shooting slump, get outmatched or at worst case injured. It is, therefore, important that your bench players fill that gap and play within your system. When you looked at the 08-10 Lakers, Odom played in that role, and won a 6th man award in 10/11. He was bit of inconsistent but he had so many talents to change the game, and when things went south (such as Bynum's injury plagued seasons) he stepped up. This season we had no one to play such role. Therefore, we had to play our starting lineup more unfairly, that I think had part in these end-of-season injuries. That is why we have to bring one such player, that can change the game in various ways with scoring to be on top.
3. We are a poor defensive team. As much as Dwight anchors the defense, he can't stop the other team from scoring from perimeter or from 2v1 in paint. D'Antoni doesn't preach defense as much as Mike Brown but I don't think it had huge impact in our performance. Why? Because we don't have the personnel to play defense consistently. Pau can't do it. Nash is a matador. MWP is a shell of himself. Kobe can do only so much on both sides. From bench also, aside from hustle players like Clark and Hill, they are poor defenders. That is why we need to bring 2 players that are defensive specialist. One to start, and other off the bench - preferably a backcourt player, at the very least someone who can defend Guards.
I've talked about necessary additions so far, now the obvious question comes: How do we get them? To answer that we have to speculate on the roster for next season a bit. For sure we aren't [expletive]ing amnestying Kobe. Second, Dwight is coming back. Dude is right to pursue his options especially after such a season but you don't trade L.A. and Lakers with anything. Third, Nash has 2 more years, considering his low trade value and the sole reason that we can't amnesty him, he is staying. After these 3, we just need to fill the gaps now.
Pau Gasol has gained a bit of trade value after showing his prime skills as the season wind down. There must be teams out there, still, that want Pau. I don't know if Bucks are interested but my favourite trade scenario is in which we get Ersan and Mbah Moute in return for Pau. Mbah Moute would start as PF as the defensive specialist, and according to situation Ersan would be either starting SF that is athletic and perimeter threat OR the 6th man. In any case we need such a combo in return when dealing Pau away.
Second, we have to amnesty MWP. As long as he is here, he will either start or get big chunks of minutes. He doesn't have anything to contribute, and he's too much attention seeker for a team that doesn't have the presence (like Phil) to take it under control. Considering the tax situation, I'd say don't even hesitate to pull the trigger.
Third, trade Chris Duhon for either a 3 point specialist or a perimeter defender. I know we can still find either of the two from FA market but we don't need him, so why keep him? He has one year left in his contract, surely a team might want him. At the very least get something in return like a 2nd round draft pick.
I assume that we will keep Earl Clark and Jordan Hill. Earl can play 3/4 and Jordan can play 4/5. In a likely injury situation, these two can fill the gap from bench or you can start Earl from PF depending on how Pau trade goes. Still I'd prefer if they came off the bench. Again, I think Blake deserves to be our backup PG. He understands the new system well and his performance was good to great in last games of the season. Meeks/Goudelock question is a bit tricky. While I love both players, considering our needs I don't want to give them 20 mins a night. We need one defensive guard, if he can shoot the 3 it is better.
According to such scenarios Mike D'Antoni would have a team like
C - Dwight Howard / Jordan Hill
PF - A / C
SF - B / C
SG - Kobe Bryant / D / Andrew Goudelock
PG - Steve Nash / Steve Blake / Darius Morris
A / B / C refers to players after Pau Gasol trade and Earl Clark. D is a defensive guard who can shoot the 3. (This will probably be brought via mini-MLE) And I'd guess we can bring some veterans to fill the roster. (Like Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen type)
Still, I know it is better if we can get Phil and do all these things with him managing the roster but entertain the idea of next season with D'Antoni and options to improve the roster.