Los Angeles Lakers: 10 Ways They Could Miss the Playoffs

Michael RiosCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers: 10 Ways They Could Miss the Playoffs

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    The Lakers are struggling more than any other "playoff contender" in the NBA. As it currently stands, the Lakers sit in 11th place in the Western Conference standings.

    If the playoffs were to start today, they would obviously miss them.

    While most fans have been overly optimistic about the Lakers' recent struggles, the fact of the matter is that the team isn't playing well right now. And to think: This was a squad that was supposed to win 73 games, but that ship has obviously sailed. 

    Here are a few things the Lakers are doing that will currently keep them from having a shot at contending for a ring, let alone make the postseason. 

Howard's Free-Throw Shooting Doesn't Improve

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    Dwight Howard is currently shooting 47.7 percent from the free-throw line. For anyone keeping track, that's the worst percentage of his career.

    Howard recently said (per NBA.com) he's going to stop taking free-throw shooting advice from people and do it his own way. The last person who said that was Shaq. We all know how that ended.

    The Hack-a-Howard routine was one of the key factors in the Lakers' loss to the Houston Rockets a week ago. D'Antoni has stated he plans to play Howard in the closing minutes of most games. If Howard refuses to get help and his shooting remains the same, that could ultimately spell disaster for the Lake Show. 

The Lakers Don't Make a Significant Trade

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    It feels like the Lakers are just one significant trade away from contending for real. This doesn't necessarily mean that Gasol should be the one to go, but it does mean that the Lakers should consider making a huge move to shake things up. 

    I mean, it's not like things could get worse. The Lakers have accumulated a losing record at 9-12 and currently sit in 11th place in the West. 

    They're not heading in the right direction. Few players on this team truly complement each other. That inevitably leads to poor communication and confusion on the floor. This group of guys simply isn't working at the moment. 

    Management should strongly consider another blockbuster move this season. 

Kobe Keeps Scoring Too Often

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    When Kobe racks up five or more assists, the Lakers usually win. When he scores 30 or more points, the Lakers usually lose. As it stands, the Lakers are 1-9 when Kobe crosses the 30-point mark.

    The Lakers strongly benefit from his playmaking abilities. And it's not like he can't pass. He's averaging about five dimes per game. It's within him.

    Maybe the best solution for the Lakers would be to put Kobe at the point guard position while Nash remains sidelined. Hey, it couldn't make things worse. 

The Bench Remains Inconsistent

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    Although players like Meeks and Jamison have been improving lately, the Lakers' bench is still not the most productive second unit in the league. 

    At the start of the season, it was practically the worst. We have seen flashes of improvement, but for the most part, that's what the bench has shown: just small flashes.

    It hasn't really found its identity yet. Is it a running unit, a half-court unit or a mix of the two?

    For the Lakers' sake, D'Antoni must do what Brown failed to do a season ago: make the bench a productive one. 

Pau Continues His Slump

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    This is not the same guy that helped the team reach the finals three consecutive years. Heck, Metta World Peace has been outscoring this guy and he shoots just over 40 percent from the floor.

    Pau's stats are currently 12.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. A season ago, his stats were far more impressive at 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. One could make the argument that he's been playing fewer minutes and his injury has kept him from being his usual self, but the fact of the matter is that he simply hasn't found his niche on this new team.

    He is shooting a career low and his confidence just seems to have disappeared. With trade rumors lingering, Gasol must step it up and put on his big-boy pants, as Kobe eloquently suggested (per ESPN.com).

    Otherwise, the team will be forced to move the guy that led the team to two straight championships. No one really wants to see that. 

Nash's Injury Keeps Him Sidelined

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    At 38 years of age, Nash is one of the oldest players in the league. His body doesn't heal as quickly as a young man's. 

    Since Halloween night, the Lakers have continually pushed his return date further back with every passing week. 

    It still remains unclear when he will return. And so much rests on his shoulders even as he remains sidelined. In all honesty, Nash was one of the main reasons the Lakers decided to hire D'Anonti over the greatest coach of all time in Phil Jackson.

    He needs to get back soon if the Lakers are to build any momentum heading forward. 

The Lakers Keep Turning the Ball over

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    The Lakers are second-last in turnovers with 16.3 per game.

    This stat is pretty self-explanatory. The vast majority of their turnovers lead to fast-break points, which end up killing the Lakers. They're a slower team and they know they cannot keep up with the younger guys out in the break.

    The Lakers must find a way to stop turning the ball over. Maybe Nash's return could help them take care of the ball. Then again, the guy averages nearly three turnovers per game for his career. 

Defense Remains Non-Existent

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    The Lakers give up 98.7 points per game. That's good for 18th in the league. In terms of field-goal percentage, they're in the middle of the pack with 44 percent. That places them 14th in the NBA.

    The fact of the matter is that, even with three players who made the All-Defensive First Team, this team still struggles to stop the other team from scoring. That's what you get in a Mike D'Antoni system. When you have a seven-second-or-less offense, the other team will also have more possessions and more time to score the ball. 

    For an older team, running up and down the court may not be the best solution—especially on defense. 

Kobe Gets Hurt

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    Just the thought of it makes Lakers fans shiver. 

    This man is much too valuable to his team to go. His usage rating last year was the highest in the NBA and it continues to be high even this year with so much talent surrounding him. 

    This guy is currently the team leader in points, assists and steals. Other than LeBron James, there really is no other guy in the league that a team is more dependent on to win games.

    He must remain healthy from now until the end of the season. 

D'Antoni Refuses to Adjust

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    Magic Johnson publicly displayed his disappointment over the D'Antoni hire, saying he was not the right fit. With the Lakers' losing record, he might have been right. 

    D'Antoni has refused to change his coaching style to adapt to the abilities of his players. One could argue that it's his stubbornness that led to the Lakers' loss to Houston when he refused to take Howard out of the game. 

    But even before that, D'Antoni had already made questionable decisions. He refused to play Gasol closer to the basket where he's most effective. Aside from that, he somehow believes that a run-and-gun offense is the best system suited for an older and slower team.

    To top it all off, where's the defense?

    It doesn't take a genius to know that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. The last time I checked, D'Antoni is still ring-less.

    Unless he changes some of his strategies in L.A., that fact will never change.