When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni as their head coach, doubts instantly arose surrounding the fit of his system to the team's personnel. As the Lakers continue down a path of underwhelming results, we are seeing why those doubts exist.
It's time to break down why D'Antoni's system doesn't work for the L.A. Lakers.
We could cite the team's win-loss record of 5-9 under D'Antoni as an easy way out. The truth of the matter is, there is more to write about than mere wins and losses.
We must get to the root of why they're losing to begin with.
From the misuse of their elite talent to the improper pace of their offense, the Lakers are in an unwelcome position. As for what it is that breeds this belief, allow the following information to offer the evidence necessary.
So where shall we begin?
Neutralizing the Greatest Strength
The Los Angeles Lakers' greatest strength could be classified as the potential pick-and-roll mastery between Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. It could also be the pairing of Nash and Kobe Bryant in the backcourt.
The truth of the matter is, the Lakers' No. 1 advantage is the presence of two elite interior weapons in Howard and Pau Gasol.
The key to maximizing their abilities is knowing when to stretch the floor and when to pack it inside. More times than not, the Lakers will be at their best with Gasol flashing between the high and low posts.
Not serving as a jump shooter.
Keep in mind, it is Gasol's ability to facilitate and score with both hands that has helped him shape a status as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. Becoming a jump shooter would end the Spaniard's campaign rather prematurely.
By placing the 4 in the pocket, Mike D'Antoni neutralizes Gasol's back-to-the-basket game. In fact, he makes Gasol a one-trick pony whose area of focus is not his greatest strength.
Fortunately, Kobe Bryant has become outspoken about the fact that Pau must be used in the post (via ESPN Los Angeles):
"When Pau gets back, we’re going to play through him a great deal," Bryant said. "Probably at the start of the shot clock, we’ll move around the perimeter, this that and the other. Last 10 seconds of the shot clock, when we don’t have anything, we’ll post him up then he can make plays and make guys better, which he’s fantastic at."
Considering the approach of playing through Gasol has led the Lakers to two titles over the past four seasons, Kobe appears to have the right idea.
Three-Point Shooting Personnel
One of the keys to Mike D'Antoni's system is a heavy reliance upon the three-point shot. For those who don't believe this to be true, invest your trust in this.
The Phoenix Suns ranked in the top five in the NBA in three-point field-goal attempts in all but one season under D'Antoni. The New York Knicks ranked in the top five in each of their seasons under coach D.
Although the Lakers have their moments in which they thrive in said area, they are not built to rely on the outside shot.
Jodie Meeks may be an elite jump shooter, but his teammates are nothing more than average from beyond the arc. Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison all shoot less than 35 percent from beyond the arc for their respective careers.
The most reliable three-point shooters on the roster outside of Meeks are point guards Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Darius Morris.
Not exactly the most comforting truth.
Maintaining a Slower Pace
Head coach Mike D'Antoni has a system that would work to perfection with a young, athletically gifted rotation. Unfortunately, the Lakers are not young, nor are they athletically gifted.
They're one of the oldest teams in the NBA and possess limited speed.
For that reason, the Lakers are more likely to discover positive results by maintaining a slower pace. They must make every game a half-court battle, thus limiting the transition scoring that they are certain to allow.
As we've seen under D'Antoni, that is already one of their most debilitating struggles.
L.A. ranks 29th in the league with 16.2 transition points allowed per game. Only the Milwaukee Bucks are in a worse spot at 16.7.
Should the Lakers opt to run their offense through their interior and maintain a slower pace, however, younger teams will not be able to expose their lack of speed.
Instead, it will be L.A. who dictates the tempo of a game.
Room for Improvement
If Mike D'Antoni is stubborn in his ways and unwilling to make the proper modifications to his system, the Los Angeles Lakers will continue to struggle. If he is willing to commit more time to defense and make the alterations previously noted, however, we could see different results.
Fans and analysts may be angry, but D'Antoni is no fool. He knows how to win games and is a master of the pick-and-roll offense.
The issue at hand is that D'Antoni's current system just isn't working. Steve Nash's return may breed an improvement in offensive efficiency, but it will not not impact their championship contention.
Not when their transition defense will continue to be an issue.
Even with Nash, the Lakers are a team that is going to be at their best when they control the pace of games and slow things down. That comes by virtue of their working from the inside out.
That's why Gasol and Howard are there, is it not?
Should D'Antoni embrace that truth, his system will flourish. Until he does, however, his schematics will not fit the Lakers' personnel.
The ball is in D'Antoni's court. Will he make the necessary changes?