The Lakers are off to a rough start this season, losing their first four games. With the team struggling, fans have been calling for the firing of head coach Luke Walton. Despite the early struggles, it is too soon to make any conclusions about what will happen in the future.
The la lakers game is a question that has been asked many times recently. With the Lakers starting off 0-4 in the preseason, are things to come?
LeBron James has said that he is unconcerned about the preseason:
“I’m more concerned about the practice court than with preseason games.” You go out and play rotations, and you’re trying to find out how to do stuff like that. At least for me, there’s just so much you can get out of a preseason game.”
We all know preseason victories and losses are meaningless, but only three teams have reached the playoffs with a point differential of -10 or worse in the past five seasons (excluding last year, when no club played more than three games). None of the three clubs who qualified for the playoffs advanced beyond the second round.
-16 point difference for the Atlanta Hawks (they finished the regular season 15th in the eastern conference)
-10.5 point difference for the Cleveland Cavaliers (finished 15th in the west)
Preseason for the 2018-2019 season:
-15 point difference for the Minnesota Timberwolves (finished 12th in the west)
-11.8 point difference for the New Orleans Pelicans (finished 13th in the west)
-15 point difference for the New York Knicks (finished 11th in the east)
-10.7 point difference for the New Orleans Pelicans (finished 6th in the west)
-10.3 point difference for the Sacramento Kings (finished 12th in the west)
Preseason for the 2016-2017 season:
-10.7 point difference for the Philadelphia 76ers (14th in the east)
-10.2 point difference for the Brooklyn Nets (15th in the east)
-10.5 point difference for the Los Angeles Clippers (4th in the west)
-10.5 point difference for the Minnesota Timberwolves (13th in the west)
-10.7 point difference for the Dallas Mavericks (6th in the west)
The Lakers completed the preseason with a dreadful 0-6 record and a dreadful -15 point differential.
We’re not predicting a playoff berth for the Purple and Gold. As long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis stay healthy, they’re the closest thing the NBA has to a postseason certainty. What we’re saying is that the preseason isn’t useless, as LBJ would have you think, and we’ve discovered several red flags that don’t bode well for a club like the Lakers, who aren’t just trying to reach the playoffs, but to win a championship.
The Lakers may have the NBA’s three weakest defenders at their respective positions.
DeAndre Jordan started for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2020-2021 season. His minutes decreased as the season proceeded, and he was eventually replaced by Blake Griffin (who isn’t renowned for his defensive ability). In the end, Nets head coach Steve Nash chose not to play Jordan in the playoffs for a single minute.
DeAndre Jordan was rated 98th out of 107 centers in defensive rating last season (114.8), which is worse than it seems. He was on a Nets team with offensive weapons like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Joe Harris, which made his job simple: he was there to guard the rim and bring down rebounds. Jordan could reserve his legs for the more mundane aspects of the game. It wasn’t enough, however, to keep him in front of perimeter players or close out on open three-point shooters.
DeAndre Jordan’s preseason with the Lakers was more of the same. Opposing wings chased him relentlessly on switches, eyes alight, as they pranced past him into the lane for an easy look at the rim, and he still appeared confused in pick and roll situations.
On a Detroit Pistons team that ended the season with the league’s second-worst record, Wayne Ellington ranked 19th out of 21 players in defensive rating (114.2). Wayne Ellington was one of the league’s worst defenders on one of the league’s worst defensive teams (yikes!).
Ellington’s difficulties aren’t due to his stature. He stands 6-4 and weighs 207 pounds. At the very least, he should be capable of accomplishing his duties. Instead, he avoids contact with the hoop, closes out slowly on perimeter shooters, and saves energy to improve his offensive shooting statistics.
Wayne Ellington appeared to spend more energy on the less glamorous side of the ball during preseason in La La Land, with LeBron James and defensive guru Frank Vogel screaming in his ear, but old habits are hard to change. Ellington was wary of any play that might result in a bump or bruise.
Carmelo Anthony ranked last in defensive rating (115.8) with the Portland Trail Blazers last season, a club that ended the year as the NBA’s second-worst defensive team.
With an average speed of 3.61 MPH last season, Carmelo Anthony was the NBA’s second slowest player. The former Nuggets All-Star has lost a stride or two on defense as he approaches his 37th birthday. He lacks the mobility to keep anybody in front of him on the perimeter (including most NBA centers), which is a problem. The larger issue is that he’s arguably the weakest player in the league when it comes to closing out on long-range shooters. Teams must work on a swivel to keep rival sharpshooters in check in today’s contemporary NBA, and if you have one weak link, you’ll be torn apart.
Carmelo Anthony looked nearly as athletic as a 50-year-old geometry teacher throughout the preseason. He had trouble keeping G-Leaguers in front of him, and his perimeter rotations would make a middle school basketball coach lose his cool.
Russell Westbrook is a basketball player who plays for the Oklahoma
Russell Westbrook’s preseason hasn’t been all terrible thus yet. For the Lakers, his defense was excellent. Westbrook didn’t concentrate on stopping the guy in front of him over the previous two seasons in Houston and Washington. So it was great to see him focusing his attention on D in preparation for the Purple and Gold. “Brodie” is 6-3 and 200 pounds, with enough athleticism to play two positions, and his engagement and pride in the less glamorous aspect of the game speaks well for the Purple and Gold.
Westbrook’s six mistakes per game during the preseason have gotten a lot of attention, but those are simply growing pains with a new club. Throughout the Lakers’ six preseason defeats, Russell’s passing was outstanding at times.
It always seems to come back to shooting when we speak about Russell Westbrook, and unlike his passing skills, the way he clanked jumpers in the preseason isn’t going away anytime soon. During four practice games, Westbrook shot 35 percent from the field on largely open shots, which should improve somewhat from his 43 percent lifetime average during the regular season. Even so, the Lakers will need more on this squad.
If Westbrook can’t stop and pop as a ball handler in pick-and-roll scenarios, the Lakers’ two guards will simply stay back on the block, shutting off driving lanes to the rack. If Westbrook is unable to make open spot-up threes, his man will be free to roam and obstruct LeBron James’ basket rushes or Anthony Davis’ post up efforts. Unfortunately, we witnessed this with the Lakers’ preseason struggles: opponents have hung off Westbrook, challenging him to shoot, and he’s missed.
All the discussion when the Lakers completed the deal for Russell Westbrook this summer was about “fit.” LeBron James thrives on open space on the floor, which can only be created by great three-point shooters. So far, Russell Westbrook’s “fit” with the Lakers has been like to Shaq attempting to put a size 10 shoe onto one of his enormous feet.
The good news is that LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ Big Three, completed the preseason unharmed. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the rest of the team.
Minor ailments kept Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington out of the preseason. When two role players miss a week or two of practice time, it’s usually not a big issue, and the Lakers are no exception. Nonetheless, it is inconvenient. Over the winter, the Purple and Gold had the greatest player turnover in the league and are in urgent need of stability. It aches a bit to be without Monk and Ellington for even a week.
Over the past ten days, both Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza have sustained severe injuries, posing a huge issue for LeBron James and his teammates. Ariza first had an ankle injury. He will be sidelined for at least two months after undergoing surgery to remove debris from his right ankle. Then Horton-Tucker tore a ligament in his thumb, which necessitated surgery and will keep him out for six weeks.
Outside of LeBron James, THT and Ariza are the Lakers’ two greatest wing defenders.
Trevor Ariza may be 36 years old, but he was a good defender for the Miami Heat last season, limiting his assignments to almost 4% lower than the team’s average field goal hit percentage. Ariza is tall and devious. He’s a player who can come in and calm down an opposition player who is on a hot run.
Last year, Talen Horton-Tucker wasn’t exactly on the same level as ex-Laker Alex Caruso, but he wasn’t far behind. THT completed the 2020-2021 season tied for 21st in the league in defensive rating with ballhawk, Matisse Thybulle.
During the summer, the Lakers let defensive ace Caruso go and gave THT $30 million over three years, indicating their confidence that he can step in and shut down opposing wings with his enormous 7-1 reach. THT did not disappoint in the three preseason games he played in. On the perimeter, he harassed the opposition wings and seemed capable of bodying up larger players on the block off of switches.
The absences of THT and Ariza have created a significant vacuum in the Lakers’ perimeter rotation, which may result in a couple more early defeats. On the surface, losing a few games doesn’t seem like a huge issue, but we all remember what happened to the Lakers last season in the playoffs, when they were the 7th seed and were knocked out in the first round by a strong Phoenix Suns team. This year’s Western Conference is deep, and three defeats may be the difference between having home court advantage in the first round and having to battle your way into the playoffs via the play-in round.
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