After 20 games, the Los Angeles Lakers have two quality wins.
Immediately, some are going to look at the standings and proclaim this statement to be statistically incorrect. After all, the Lakers are 9-11 so far this season. As in, nine wins.
A win is a win, right?
The argument about quality wins stems from an examination of the nine wins. In this case, let us define "quality win" as a victory against an upper-echelon team or at least a better-than-average team.
At this point, there are two.
Granted, fans and analysts spend all season debating the list of "top-tier" or "elite" teams. This can change by the week. Sometimes a team has a record that does not necessarily reflect its perceived potential. Still, it is not hard to identify those franchises that are clearly better than the rest of the pack.
The Lakers are a perfect example of this.
Despite being 9-11, plenty of fans and basketball experts operate under the assumption that Los Angeles will eventually figure out its issues and become a dangerous playoff team.
Admittedly, the season has already experienced a few bumps, including a new coach, injuries and the ongoing challenge of developing chemistry with new players.
Not to mention the Dwight Howard free-throw saga.
Let us go back to the wins. So far, the Lakers have beaten two teams that are above .500 for the season. That includes the Golden State Warriors (12-7) and the Brooklyn Nets (11-7). Both are quality squads, but they are not exactly the top-shelf teams in the NBA.
Again, we return to the sentiment that a win is a win, right? Well, sort of.
There are plenty of excuses for the lack of quality wins, all of which have some legitimacy. The absence of Nash. Learning a new system. Adjusting to different roles on offense. Gelling with new teammates.
Shooting free throws.
The problem is that things do not appear to be getting much better, and the Lakers as a whole are struggling. This is not supposed to happen to this team. We are talking about the Lakers.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs?
Meanwhile, the 11 losses have been against opponents with a combined record of 118-91. The Lakers have been unable to beat the Spurs, Grizzlies, Thunder or Clippers. This is not a shock, but if the Lakers are really going to be a contender late, it might be good to beat at least a few of these teams early.
Maybe the Lakers do not have two quality wins. Maybe they actually have two average wins. They did beat the Nuggets and Rockets, both of which are playing .500 basketball this season. So, perhaps we will give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest they have four average wins.
Somehow I do not think that will make Laker Nation feel much better.
Obviously, the season is still in the early stages. However, that "early" designation can only last so long. The Lakers are now 20 games into the season. When you are almost 25 percent done with the season, patterns do start to emerge.
Much can happen between now and the beginning of the playoffs. Steve Nash may return and be his old, distributing self. Pau Gasol may find his place in the Mike D’Antoni universe. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard may discover perfect harmony on defense. Superman may discover the long-lost art of shooting free throws.
All may eventually be well in Lakerland. It is not hard to find a Lakers fan who suggests this team will be "fine." You appreciate the optimism, but this team is digging a pretty deep hole at the moment.
For now, the quality (or even average) wins are not there. Count ‘em…two.