Even though a lot of the Los Angeles Lakers' weaknesses and deficiencies have been exposed during the preseason, some positives are evident as well.
Although their brand of play hasn't generated a lot of preseason wins, there is a definite chemistry and cohesion that was not apparent from them last season.
If the Lakers can use the remainder of the preseason to clearly outline the rotation and player roles, they should be a competitive force when the season starts.
The Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman Dynamic
While Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard did develop some chemistry down the stretch, they did not seem to have the same rapport that Gasol and Chris Kaman are already developing this early in the season.
This quickly developed cohesion may be due to the fact that both players know their roles. While Gasol and Howard had to go through a weird transition period, in which neither really knew what was expected of them, it is clear this time around that Gasol is the primary interior option.
Kaman knows his role and thrives in it.
As a rebounding force and a supplementary interior scorer, Kaman uses his ability to shoot the jumper and move without the ball to get baskets off of the attention focused on Gasol.
The two are also excellent passers for big men and are able to get their teammates involved out of the high post and with their backs to the basket.
Although Kaman isn't the passer Gasol is, or the rebounding threat that Howard was for the Lakers, he does both relatively well and is a much more versatile offensive player than Superman.
In the three preseason games in which they've played together, the two haven't scored fewer than 25 combined points despite both playing just a little over 20 minutes per game each. Both players have also been cleaning the glass well, combining for over 15 rebounds in two of their games together.
Their combined scoring and rebounding numbers should be closer to the 40 and 20 marks respectively during the regular season, when their minutes should increase.
The Lakers Aren't Utilizing the Fast Break
Failing to hit double-digits in fast-break points in all of their preseason games, the Lakers aren't running—despite Mike D'Antoni's reputation as a run-and-gun enthusiast.
While this could be because they are trying to pace themselves, the amount of athletes, capable guards and rebounding big men on the team seem to indicate that they could play at a much faster tempo if they wanted to.
Theoretically, the Lakers could quickly get into transition following a rebound from Gasol or Kaman, who are both very capable outlet passers. With the bevy of capable ball-handling guards on the roster, it shouldn't be too difficult for Kaman and Gasol to find a guard to initiate the transition offense.
The problem might be their inability to control the boards.
Outside of Kaman and Gasol, the rest of the roster hasn't been cleaning the glass effectively. The Lakers have only topped the 45-rebound mark once during the preseason and have been out-rebounded every game.
If the Lakers can't control the glass, it will be very hard for them to control the tempo of the game. This indicates that if the Lakers want to push the pace, they'll have to focus first on cleaning the boards.
The Lakers Don't Attack the Paint Enough
Despite having very capable ball-handlers who can take it to the hole and two very proficient big men in Gasol and Kaman, the Lakers are struggling to score in the paint.
Who has been the MVP of the preseason thus far?
They have scored less than 30 points in the paint in every preseason game except one and have been outscored in the paint by their opponents in each of those games as well.
While their weak interior defense is understandable due to the limited minutes Gasol and Kaman are playing, their points in the paint should not be this low.
D'Antoni teams have traditionally been more perimeter oriented, but if the Lakers don't speed up the pace, then they have to compensate by scoring inside.
Living and dying by the jumper, without a transition game to complement it, is a surefire way to end up in the lottery. Whether it's improving their penetration or picking up the pace of the game, the Lakers have to really redefine their offense and set up a consistent offense in order to succeed.
All these changes can be made if the Lakers can dominate the boards, which will allow them to dictate the style of play.