The Los Angeles Lakers are consistently among the NBA's best teams because they are the smartest franchise in the league, not just because they spend the most money.
As a Lakers fan I am used to hearing "Laker haters" try to diminish the Lakers' success by saying things like, "Of course they win, they spend the most money."
The truth is the Lakers win because they are the smartest team in the NBA and make the right moves at the right time, not just because they have the NBA's highest payroll. Here are a few of the genius moves the Lakers have made in the Kobe Bryant-era:
Trading Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant (1996) - During the 1996 NBA Draft the Lakers' GM Jerry West agreed to trade Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Kobe Bryant. It was the genius of the Lakers that landed Kobe Bryant, not the depth of their pockets.
Trading Shaquille O'Neal (2004) - When it became clear Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal could not (or would not) coexist, the Lakers traded Shaq to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler, and a future first round pick (becoming Jordan Farmar.)
After leaving Los Angeles Shaq regularly battled injuries and his last good season was 2009 (17.8 PTS, 8.4 REBS) before retiring in 2011. Kobe and Lamar Odom were vital in the Lakers' 2009 and 2010 titles and Jordan Farmar was an important reserve. Kobe continues to be one of the league's best players long after Shaq has retired.
Drafting Marc Gasol (2007) to Land Pau Gasol - Los Angeles drafted Marc Gasol in the second round (48th overall) of the 2007 NBA Draft and included him, along with two future first round picks and other players, in a trade for his brother, Pau Gasol. Marc Gasol has since blossomed into an All-Star center. Even if the Pau Gasol trade would not have gone through, the Lakers would still have Marc Gasol and two additional first round picks on the roster today.
Trading Lamar Odom (2011) to Land Steve Nash (2011) - The Lakers made what appeared to be a bad trade by sending Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for an $8.9 million trade exception and a future first round pick. Odom tanked in Dallas, focusing more on his reality TV show than playing basketball. The Lakers used the $8.9 million exception to trade for Steve Nash. Another brilliant move by the Lakers.
Trading Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard (2012) -As Grantland's Bill Simmons (a notorious Laker hater) perfectly outlined, the Lakers never panicked by offering both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for Dwight Howard as the Orlando Magic wanted. GM Mitch Kupchak played out the Dwight Howard drama perfectly, moving the talented but injury-prone and immature Bynum for the NBA's best big man.
If the Lakers win the NBA title in 2013, it will not be due to the size of the team's payroll.
A 2013 Lakers' title will be due to brilliant basketball moves, because the Lakers are the smartest team in the NBA.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Lakers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: