Though the team has an abundance of issues to resolve—turnovers and a disheveled offensive attack in general—their defensive showing is what's most disconcerting.
Struggling or not, the Lakers are scoring. They're averaging more than 97 points per game and shooting a fifth-best 47 percent from the field.
Which means their Charlotte Bobcats-like start comes down to defense.
Currently, the boys in purple and gold are allowing opponents to score nearly 100 points per contest on 44.7 percent shooting from the floor, an unacceptable reality.
Naturally then, now is the time we call for Dwight Howard's head, right? He was brought to Los Angeles to ensure teams were held to well below 100 points per contest, correct?
To an extent, yes. But the Lakers' defensive shortcomings stretch well beyond Howard. In fact, he's been part of the solution thus far.
Los Angeles is currently allowing the 12th-most points per game in the league, but it's allowed just 42 of those points in the paint, on par with the 41.5 it relinquished last season. This puts the blame on the Lakers' outside defense—an aspect of the game Howard himself cannot be held responsible for.
Yes, as one of the most mobile big men in the NBA, Howard is no stranger to stepping out on the perimeter. But his job is to lock down the painted area and to protect the rim, and he has done no worse than the Lakers of last year.
Is there room for improvement? Of course. Bear in mind, however, that in the age of stretch forwards, Howard is left to man the post by himself, leaving him more susceptible to dribble penetration.
Let's also not neglect to mention that Iron Man is averaging 2.4 blocks per contest, a mark slightly above his career metric, putting him on pace to block more shots per game this season than in the last two.
So Howard isn't the problem. The Lakers wouldn't be outscoring opponents in the paint by an average of 5.6 points per contest if he was. That's despite the team starting the season off under .500, mind you. Even more importantly, though, that's in spite of the defensively-inept Antawn Jamison spending time manning the paint for the second unit.
Which means Howard is already providing solutions to some of his team's defensive deficiencies—the Lakers are just expecting him to solve too much.
Los Angeles' newest behemoth is doing his job. He's holding opponents to fewer points in the paint and he's protecting the rim at just as high a level as he has the rest of his career.
The Lakers' perimeter defenders, though? Well, the same cannot be said of them.
Opponents are outscoring Los Angeles on the perimeter by an average of seven points per game thus far, completely eclipsing the 5.6 advantage Howard has given them in the paint.
Now I beg you, how is that Howard's doing? He's not out there defending the likes of Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and even Randy Foye. He's the one who's holding star big men like Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge to under 50 percent shooting.
To ask Howard to step out onto the perimeter and do what Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant and company are supposed to be doing is ridiculous. Los Angeles' defensive flaws on the outside are on them—not Howard. The current starting lineup is plus-31 with him on the floor. It doesn't get much better.
But it does get much worse.
Teams are shooting 35.6 percent from three-point range against the Lakers, a higher percentage than the 32.7 percent conversion rate the team allowed last year.
Again, that's not Howard. It can't be put on him.
Could he very well step out behind the rainbow and start blocking 25-foot jump shots?
Sure, but then the rim will be left unprotected and that will be his fault too.
Something else has to change. Not Howard. He's doing what he's supposed to do on the defensive side of the ball.
The rest of team—porous perimeter defense and all—isn't.
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