The Lakers need to both contain Andrew Bogut and compensate for Pau Gasol's absence.
First, the game...
1) Brandon Jennings is the sexiest name heading into town and will likely garner much of the hype. We at Land O' Lakers certainly aren't above bringing the kid into the conversation. But no Buck may be playing better than Andrew Bogut. In his last ten games, he's had double digit scoring eight times, six of them double-double's. His three January games sport averages of 22 points, eleven rebounds and three blocks. It's indicative of a terrific season in general, with numbers the best of his career. Andrew Bynum has longed for more touches, and that's fine (within reason), but as has been the case all season, his overall effectiveness will be judged by more than the sum of his points. Bogut can be a handful, and Bynum needs to step up in the "Battles of the Andrew's."
2) I imagine at least part of the reason Bogut is flourishing this season is being healthier than previous campaigns. Has another benefit been playing alongside Ersan Illasova, a floor-stretching sharp-shooter theoretically freeing up the paint for Bogut and limiting the amount of doubles safely thrown the Aussie's way? I suppose, but in the interest of full disclosure, I haven't seen enough Bucks games to give a certain answer. But I do know this much: Illasova's 10-18/24 point performance was chief among reasons the Lakers struggled to win in Milwaukee last December by more than the skin of their teeth. That most fans couldn't pick this guy out of a lineup is irrelevant. The Lakers better know his face.
3) Milwaukee takes a lot of three's (21.6, 5th highest in the league) and makes 35.9 percent of them to round out the NBA's top ten for success. As you can see, a fair amount of dudes hoisting regularly from Downtown, many at a respectable clip. The Lakers are still tops in the league at defending the three ball despite recent defensive slippage. We'll see if anything has to give.
4) Luc Ruchard Mbah a Moute has been a considerably better pro than I ever would have guessed coming out of UCLA. But finding success because of his defensive prowess is no shock at all, and he's proven himself capable as anybody of making Kobe Bryant work. Against the Blazers (and in particular, Martell Webster), Kobe took a LOT of difficult shots, often in "iso from the get go mode," neither to my nor BKs liking. Kobe's finger injury is making "takeover" mode difficult, both while shooting and working his handle to create shots. I hope he does a better job of not making an already solid defender better. (On the flips side, LRMAM's Bruin buddy, Dan Gadzuric is exactly the pro I thought he'd be, which ain't a compliment. Despite the obvious "entertainment value" points he gets for a "player card" photo featuring a "late-decade boy band" beard, I still can't believe DG makes 6.7 mil this season, and 7.2 the following. That just hurts my feelings.)
5) As mentioned earlier, the Lakers barely got by in the last meeting, and that was with Pau Gasol racking 26 points (on just 15 shots), snagging 22 boards and swatting four shots. I don't think anyone "needs" me to lay out why El Spaniard is missed, but for the benefit of the thick...
As for the Bynum for Chris Bosh rumor that's got everyone a-tizzy...
Forum Blue and Gold's Kurt Helin wisely reminds people to consider the source (on more than one level). Gossip sometimes pans out, but it often ends up nothing more than gossip. That Bynum's contract is in the "base-year compensation" stage also makes this complicated (in ways I have a hard time verbalizing, but please just trust me, it does). I also wonder if the Lakers would be willing to throw Jordan Farmar into the deal, as has been speculated. I've expressed many times my opinion that Farmar won't remain a Laker beyond this season. I don't think the Lakers are sold on him as a future starter and I'm absolutely positive he's not enamored with his role in the triangle. But I still have a hard time picturing Phil Jackson comfortable giving Shannon Brown or Sasha Vujacic Farmar's second unit organizational responsibilities. Maybe with Luke Walton eventually healthy and Lamar Odom eventually back to the bench, PJ would be cool with losing Farmar. But that's also betting a lot on the health of Walton and (indirectly) Gasol, which feels kinda dicey these days (and for Walton, on a career).
There's also the financial commitment. I can't conceive of making this deal without a willingness to extend Bosh, which means adding more bucks to an already swole payroll. On the flip side, Bynum has struggled to flourish alongside Gasol, and at times, doesn't even seem that jazzed at the prospect. If the front office suspects Bosh and Gasol would be a better tandem, perhaps there's a mindset that if a boatload of money will be spent either way, it might as well be on two more complimentary players. Bosh is pretty damn good. Probably not the defensive presence Bynum is (or can be, at any rate), but remember, Gasol also arrived in town with zero respect in the lockdown department, which has certainly since changed. In the meantime, Bosh is a more versatile scorer and active rebounder than Drew. Plus, he'll be 26 in March, meaning his prime still awaits.
Do I think anything will happen? Probably not, especially with Bynum such a prized section of Jim Buss' resume. And let's not forget, even while experiencing growing pains, Drew's still a prety good player as is with a LOT of room to improve. But would I make the deal? Dunno, but I'd definitely consider it. Bosh is too good a player not to ponder. And if there's legit reason to be concerned Bynum won't ever make his presence felt next to Pau, then you obviously have to weigh the pros and cons of a different big (unless you flip flop Bynum and Drew in the starting lineup, which would likely mean a very unhappy young center). If another direction is traveled, it's hard to believe many roads exist better than the one leading to Bosh.
But again, if I had to guess, probably not gonna happen. But it's still fun to kick around.