Diagnosing the Real Issues Surrounding L.A. Lakers' Slow Start
There's no one reason why the Lakers aren't winning.
It's a mixture of different elements that have held them back from playing to their highest potential.
It's really early. I wouldn't even call it time to lift the safety box that protects the panic button. But there are a number of things they need to do better if they really want to contend for this NBA championship.
Here are some of the issues the Lakers are experiencing during their early-season struggles.
The Lakers haven't been given a chance to get in routine mode yet.
There's been constant change, first with Dwight and the motion offense, then a new coach and style, followed by a Steve Nash injury. That's a substantial amount of change to get used to in just a few weeks of basketball.
They'll eventually get into a rhythm.
Once they get into routine mode, they'll reel off one of those 12 wins in 14 games streaks.
Free-Throw Shooting Percentage
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Blame it on Dwight Howard, or just say it comes with the territory, but you're not going to win many games when you miss 20 free throws in 48 minutes, like they did against Indiana Tuesday night.
The Lakers are shooting 66 percent from the stripe (second-to-last in the NBA), and even though most misses belong to one guy, a miss is a miss. The rest of the team is forced to make up for that lost production by having to make extra field goals, a difficult request.
Free-throw percentage isn't why they are losing. There isn't one specific reason why the Lakers are underperforming. But it's definitely a contributing factor.
No Point Guard Presence
Without Steve Nash, the Lakers are currently 24th in the NBA in assists per game.
Which means that the shot-taker is all too often the shot-creator. The Lakers aren't getting those easy baskets, especially Pau Gasol, that guard penetration and manipulation would normally create.
Right now, Kobe Bryant leads the team in assists at 4.9 a game. That just can't be.
The Lakers can't expect to win many games without literally using a point guard, especially in Mike D'Antoni's system. Just ask Carmelo what that was like before Jeremy Lin showed up.
Finding a reliable backup point guard for Nash needs to be addressed.
The Pau Gasol Era Has Run Its Course
Pau Gasol just looks burnt out in Laker yellow.
He seems passive, hesitant and unsure of himself. Unsure where to go, when to shoot or if it's going in.
It's time to make a move, or at least explore the possibility...aggressively. But it doesn't have to be for a star. There's enough star power on that roster to win a championship.
Go out and get some fresh legs.
So what if he's not an 18-point scorer? The Lakers are better off trying to get a couple of 10 and 12-point per game guys with some life in them rather than one macho All-Star with a fat contract (if possible, salary cap-wise of course).
I'm just not sure Gasol makes this team better right now. They already have an inside presence.
Sooner or later, Kobe is going to slow down, Nash will be hanging on and Gasol will be softer than a hotel pillow.
It might be wise to move Gasol now before he loses any more value. He's averaging 13 points a game, taking two less shots than last year. He's at the point where he looks like he's getting old, instead of just getting older.
Depth a Problem Without Nash
The Lakers aren't getting much production from their bench, and an injury to a starter only makes it worse.
Darius Morris isn't really a starting-caliber NBA guard, while neither Chris Duhon or Steve Blake provide any real substance either.
Their biggest scoring threats off the bench are Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill, who are averaging five points apiece.
That just doesn't sound like a championship-contending bench. If the Lakers do plan on moving Pau Gasol, they should look to acquire multiple players assuming they can't land a difference-making marquee name.