COMMENTARY | Following a disappointing season and another early postseason exit, it was clear that the Los Angeles Lakers needed to get younger and more athletic during the offseason.
They've done neither at this point, but somehow, the team has improved dramatically -- chalk it up to that same franchise magic that resulted in favorable trades for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
The latest additions to the team, 38-year-old Steve Nash and 36-year-old Antawn Jamison, are no longer marquee players who will dominate at their positions, but the good news for the Lakers is that they don't need either player to be what they were in their prime.
In Nash's case, he remains a master facilitator who can make big men thrive. He will benefit the Lakers more than an offensive superstar given the fact that there are plenty of shot-takers on the team and a pair of highly skilled 7-footers on the roster. No one makes an offense flow like the two-time MVP, and it stands to reason that his arrival in Los Angeles will make his new team much more dangerous in the postseason.
And then there's Jamison who in his heyday was a scoring machine that averaged an impressive 17.2 points per game last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will be exactly what the Lakers need off the bench given the fact that it was last in the NBA in scoring through the regular season at 21.3 points per game. Even if he's only a shell of his former self, he should still be able to trump the 7.8 points per game of Matt Barnes, the leading scorer off the bench last season.
Ironically, one of the Lakers' strong suits was the center position, where Andrew Bynum made his first All-Star appearance in 2012.
Yet the team continues to pursue Dwight Howard.
Howard and Bynum are head and shoulders above the other centers in the NBA, but they are relatively close in production at this point in their careers. Howard is widely believed to make the Lakers an instant title contender, but Nash and Jamison may have already done that.
Howard and Bynum are No.'s 1 and 1A in terms of NBA centers' rankings. If the Lakers get Howard, then it would only be a good deal if they don't give up a lot outside of Bynum. If they do sacrifice much more than him, then it will be a major setback, because depth is the Lakers' greatest need.
Acquiring Howard for Bynum and draft picks will make the Lakers better -- but by how much remains to be seen. Whatever happens moving forward in the Howard saga, Los Angeles is already an offseason winner now that the team's two greatest needs have been filled at point guard and bench scoring.
The scary thing for their opponents is that they're not done.
Michael C. Jones is a Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. You can follow him on Twitter for more insight.