This article will look at five possible worst-case scenarios for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
After a 96-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, the Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak and improved their overall record to 11-8.
There are reasons to believe the team will eventually improve their play, which has been average during the first month of the season, especially on the offensive end, where the Lakers rank 21st in points per game, 17th in overall offensive rating and second to last in three-point percentage.
The team is in the process of learning a new offense, has had very few full-contact practices and like all other teams in the league, is adjusting to playing more games in fewer days thanks to the lockout. All of these are legitimate reasons to blame the team’s early season shortcomings on.
But there are also reasons to think the Lakers’ struggles could continue as the calendar turn from winter to spring.
Outside of a major injury, here are five worst-case scenarios for the Lakers’ 2011-'12 season.
Theoretically, we will pretend the Los Angeles Lakers are planning on making a move for Dwight Howard between now and the trade deadline, or are planning on doing something to acquire the reigning Defensive Player of the Year sometime this offseason.
I am sure there aren’t many fans who would argue with Howard wearing a purple and gold jersey for the next 10 years. I am hoping whether the Lakers end up acquiring Howard or not, they don’t neglect the areas where they drastically need improvement.
If the Lakers acquire Howard tomorrow, the same old problems and voids still exist: poor point guard play, poor bench play and lack of a quality backup for Kobe Bryant, just to name a few.
After their attempt to acquire Chris Paul this offseason was thwarted, the front office may be hellbent on getting the sexiest name on the market to feel as though they have made up for losing out on Paul.
But it may be wise, for both the present and future, for the team to be a little more savvy than greedy when it comes to looking for players to improve the team. Once again, assuming the team is even planning on making a transaction sometime in the near future.
Let’s say the Los Angeles Lakers fail to find any momentum throughout the course of the season, suffering through a couple of nasty losing streaks. By the end of the season, they are in the fight of their life for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
If the Lakers do indeed end up experiencing high amounts of turbulence this season, can we expect them to handle it amicably? Remember this is a team used to competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy every spring.
If the going gets real tough this season, will the players and coaching staff remain united or will they be divided during their fall?
Who’s the Los Angeles Lakers’ second-best player: Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol?
Which of these two players deserves more shots in Mike Brown’s new offense?
Until the team figures out the answers to those two questions, it’s unlikely it will find any cohesion in Brown’s new system.
To start the season, Bynum has been featured more in the paint, while Gasol has been delegated to playing closer to the perimeter and the role of facilitator. As a result, Gasol has been shooting more mid-range jump shots and three-pointers this season than ever before.
Gasol recently aired his frustrations, stating he would like to receive more shots closer to the rim. It appears as though Gasol’s words didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, Gasol scored 23 points, nine of which came in the first quarter. More importantly, none of Gasol’s first-quarter field-goal attempts were from more than 14 feet away from the hoop.
The team made it a point to feature Gasol closer to the rim than they had before. Will this trend continue? If it does, will Bynum be happy?
Once again, until the Lakers can figure out where Bynum and Gasol fall in the team’s “pecking order,” it’s going to be very tough for the team’s offense, which still has many question marks surrounding it outside of the one I am highlighting in this slide, to gain any rhythm.
Two weeks ago Kobe Bryant scored 40 or more points in four straight games. While fans were enjoying the supposed past-his-prime Kobe look like he was 21 again, it also brought up many concerns. Fans were wondering if the team could win a game unless Kobe played out of his skull every night.
The concerns have temporarily subsided. The team has since won two games against the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers with Kobe playing at a much more balanced pace.
Given the team’s struggles on offense, which can be attributed to learning a new system, lack of practice time and their largely average record (currently 11-8, good enough for the eighth seed in the Western Conference), it’s hardly out of the question “score-first” Kobe could return again sometime this season.
The last thing the team needs is for Kobe, who is currently averaging more minutes this season than he did last (38 compared to 33), to play too many minutes and overexert himself with a heavy shooting hand on the offensive end.
More minutes plus a higher scoring average could equal a less-than-perfect Kobe come playoff time.
Through the first 19 games of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have a very pedestrian 11-8 record. Many fans, especially those wearing purple and gold colored glasses, think the team’s average start to the season can mostly be blamed on lack of practice time, learning a new offense and/or the breaks of playing a truncated, lockout-shortened schedule.
While they certainly have a valid reason to think the Lakers’ overall play will gradually improve, and hopefully it will, there’s also reason to believe the Lakers won’t reach the same level of play we have come to expect from the team over the last three or four seasons.
Unless the team makes some sort of a trade, there are weaknesses that are not going to go away, whether the team masters Mike Brown’s new offense or not.
The Lakers’ second unit is filled with a bunch of players (Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts, Metta World Peace) who, outside of playing hard and doing the dirty work, don’t provide much. The Lakers’ reserves are led by Steve Blake’s seven points per game, followed by World Peace’s five points a contest.
Also, they still don’t have a perimeter player, outside of Kobe, who can provide any kind of offense on their own. As I mentioned previously, Gasol and Bynum are still trying to carve their niches in the team’s pecking order.
Combine all this with their notorious problems at the point guard position and it’s safe to say that some of the Lakers' problems aren’t going to go anywhere just simply with practice time and familiarity with a new offense.
It will be a shock to many people's systems this spring if the Lakers are fighting to stay out of the draft lottery, and at this point, it is also the most drastic worst-case scenario I can think of.