ESPN.com's Chad Ford released his offseason grades for Western Conference teams this afternoon (insider required), giving the Lakers a B-. Writes Ford:
"The Lakers, fresh off their second consecutive NBA title, weren't going to reinvent the wheel this summer. The team had most of its key players in place once Phil Jackson decided to return and really needed to address one big issue -- point guard. The Lakers took care of business by bringing in free-agent guard [Steve] Blake and then re-signing [Derek] Fisher. Fisher is getting old and Blake won't light up the world, but together they're strong enough to lead the Lakers to a third straight title. The Lakers' front office also did a solid job in the draft. With two second-round picks it landed [Devin] Ebanks, a Trevor Ariza-like long, athletic wing, and [Derrick] Caracter, a low-post bruiser who can really score in the paint. Both players would've been potential lottery picks had their bad reputations not scared teams away. If Jackson, Kobe & Co. can keep them in line, the Lakers may have scored big in the second round."
A couple things: First, I don't know exactly on what criteria Ford issues his grades, and obviously that makes a difference. Second, he appears to be one of those uncool teachers who doesn't believe in grade-flation, because L.A's report card leaves them 6th among the 15 W.C. squads. He treats C as average, meaning the Lakers come in above it. It's not like Ford gave the front office a public flogging.
Still, it seems low to me (and no, I wasn't the type to haggle for grades).
If a successful offseason can be defined as filling needs with available resources, the Lakers did some outstanding work. Blake was a well-priced solution to a problem both in point guard depth, but also in outside shooting. He's a much better fit than Jordan Farmar, and not just because he actually wants to be on the team. Potential legal questions notwithstanding, Matt Barnes represents a solid pickup, addressing L.A.'s need for greater depth at small forward. Ford mentions the two picks, but re-signing Shannon Brown was an important move (better alternatives on the market weren't available and/or possible, because of cap constraints) and adding Theo Ratliff to replace D.J. Mbenga were important, too.
All of this despite having only a mid-level at their disposal, plus a pair of fairly late second rounders. At the risk of getting all Homer McHomer, I'd give the Lakers an A. What more could they have done?