First....let's just take the "keeping Shaq" is out of this discussion.
But I like this roster the Lakers have assembled.
No. They don't scare as much as the Shaq/Kobe combo did. Nor is this team proven yet. Think about it....the only [contributing] Lakers left from those championship years are Kobe, George and Fox....and who knows how long Fox will be around. So this, to state the obvious, is a completely new era in Laker Land.
But look at the differences in this team. The Shaq-led Lakers was primarily an inside-out team that asked for shooters around Shaq to make shots. With the state of the team's payroll....it was hard to find guys who could do that. Fish didn't have his greatest year....and Rush and George were too erratic to stay on the floor to help. Horry was gone...and Payton was never known as being a great shooter. So you relied on Shaq dominating....which he didn't as easily....and Kobe creating. Creating. Another sore spot. If things got rough....no one but Kobe and GP could create their own shot.
So look at this squad. Again, not as scary...not as dominant. But they are sort of deep and flexible. If Karl Malone resigns....you have Odom, Malone, Divac, Grant, Cook and possibly Slava as your bigs. Yeah...there is some age in there...but if they can get Slava to shore up what he is doing....they have a pretty good rotation to bang with if needed. No...there isn't much scoring there outside of Odom...but those guys all can get and make shots [read: jumpers] which could open up the floor for the slashers.
The slashers. The perception is that with Shaq gone...Kobe will see nothing but double-teams. That is true in a sense....but he was seeing that anyways. Opponents basically sagged of the other players to try to keep Kobe from getting to the rack. They weren't concerned with anyone else. At least with, possibly, a rejuvenated Payton....an athletic Butler and the multi-dimentional Odom out there....it will be hard for double teams to come and defensive rotations could break down. Meaning.....all an opposing small forward had to do is just keep an eye on George or Fox but basically guard Kobe from afar. Now....if that SF keeps his eye on Kobe too much....Butler or Odom can attack that. It is something we haven't had here in a while......speed. So, if needed, this team can be a running team and get back into games that way.
And, I know....Johnny [for Board Members] is right. Adding Vlade does slow the team down some. But, it retrospect....that is okay. It won't stop the team from fast-breaking.....Vlade is excellent at rebounding and getting the outlet pass out there and the break started. That gets GP excited and at his strength. It gets Kobe, Caron and Lamar out there. And, it also keeps this team from OVERRUNNING....[read: the Mavs]. If running all of time worked....then where are Cuban's rings??
And, aside from Malone....I still think that the team is still looking to add one more [albeit minor] piece. I'm thinking a veteran point guard since Fisher left. Possibly Fox retiring or an outright buyout and spot on the coaching staff or office. And it remains to be seen how strong this team can be......