Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis recently opened up to Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times on how the team must design their game plan. While head coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system is well-established, Rambis believes that the offense should be run through L.A.'s bigs.
He's spot-on with that evaluation.
The Lakers have targeted their absence of athleticism this summer, acquiring players such as Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson and Nick Young to help in that regard. With this in mind, L.A. may be inclined to run D'Antoni's signature offense and attempt to pick up points at a high pace.
Even still, Rambis isn't sure that the Lakers are meant to run.
It's hard to debate Rambis' comments.
The Lakers are fresh off of a season in which they went 45-37 and needed a win on the final day of the regular season to make the playoffs. At the heart of their dreadful performance was a combination of injuries, an absence of chemistry and three head coaches with entirely different systems.
The only way for the Lakers to stand a fighting chance at winning a title is to play to their strengths.
2012-13 Was a Failure
The Lakers are an organization that has, historically, pounded it down low and let the rest of their game plan formulate from the effectiveness of that approach. In each of their 16 NBA championship seasons, that's remained the lone constant.
Last season, the Lakers moved away from that strategy and paid the consequences.
According to NBA.com, Los Angeles ranked 13th in points in the paint per game during the 2012-13 season. That rating may not be so disappointing for the average team, but there's one important fact that we cannot ignore.
The Lakers ranked 13th in interior scoring with both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on the same roster.
Injuries may have played a factor, but there's a fundamental flaw in the strategy the Lakers put forth in 2012-13. Despite possessing two of the most dominant interior forces in all of professional basketball, L.A. became a jump-shooting team.
All who debate that truth can look at the fact that the Lakers were third in the NBA with 24.6 three-point field goals attempted per contest. By comparison, L.A. threw up 16.8 three-point field-goal attempts per game during the 2011-12 season.
It's no coincidence that the Lakers went from a win percentage of .621 in 2011-12 to .549 in 2012-13.
Adding Athletes, Not Stars
As previously alluded to, the Lakers project to be significantly more athletic in 2013-14 than during the season prior. Players such as Farmar, Johnson and Young will all help to improve the level of explosiveness at the three perimeter positions.
With that being said, the Lakers have added key role players—not stars.
Farmar, Johnson and Young may all contribute more than 20 minutes a night, producing at a strong level off of the bench. But the Lakers still run through Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Steve Nash.
The addition of athletes won't change that.
Farmar's career-best averages are 10.4 points, 5.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game. Fortunately, Farmar's most recent NBA season saw him average a career-high 10.4 points on 44-percent shooting.
Unfortunately, Farmar played in Turkey last season and is more likely to significantly improve the bench than he is to break out as a star.
Johnson, 26, posted career-best numbers of 16.7 points per 48 minutes and 40.7-percent shooting from the field in 2012-13. Young, 28, hasn't shot above 42.0 percent since 2011, when he averaged 17.4 points per contest.
Unless Young is able to return to that form, which is the best-case scenario, the Lakers will be unsuccessful creating an up-tempo-based offense.
If the Lakers are smart, they'll cater to their three stars by slowing it down. Gasol is 33, Bryant is turning 35 on Aug. 23 and Nash will turn 40 during the upcoming regular season.
All three just so happen to be coming off of injuries, with Bryant and Nash's serving as career-threatening ailments.
Rather than running an up-and-down offense, the Lakers should take advantage of the presence of three of the greatest half-court offensive players in NBA history. Assuming they can return from their injuries—and that's the only way L.A. will have even the slightest of title dreams—allowing them to play comfortably is the key.
Rambis hit the nail on the head when it comes to what is necessary.
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