Top 5 Reasons Why the Los Angeles Lakers Won't Make the Playoffs This Season
Despite acquiring a few fresh faces this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers are not prepared to qualify for playoff contention. Whether it's an inability to effectively defend opponents, the lack of a true starting-quality center or the presence of too many talented teams, the Lakers just don't possess what it takes to make the postseason in 2014-15.
Five key reasons exist to explain this case. Each one holds the potential to impact Los Angeles' performance as a whole, and the criteria are ranked in order of least influential to most influential.
Without further ado, let's begin.
5. Uncertainty of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash
However, entering 2014-15, both veterans seem poised to bounce back and contribute to Los Angeles' efforts.
At least, that's what recent reports have indicated.
According to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, Bryant looks prepared and is practicing as if he were in his prime. "My window overlooks the court, and he comes in to work out from time to time," Kupchak said, via Sports On Earth. "You would not know he's in his mid-30s. You wouldn't know he hurt his knee and had a torn Achilles. There's no limp. He's got a hop in his step. He's working hard."
As far as Nash is concerned, the Los Angeles Daily News boasts a fairly recent update (June 23) from the two-time MVP.
I feel great right now. I’ve been able to pretty much go without limitations," Nash said on Monday. "I’m obviously not trying to overdo it so I can allow that nerve to settle down perhaps and be less irritating. It has worked so far, but I would hate to say this is where it will be like once I join the rigors of an NBA schedule.
Obviously, this is exceptional news. If both prove healthy enough to last the entirety of next season, they can play a pivotal role in determining the Lakers' level of success.
But sadly, odds favor the two of them suffering through yet another injury-plagued campaign.
With both athletes entering their 19th NBA season—Bryant at age 36 and Nash at age 40—they have endured a ridiculous amount of wear and tear. Consequently, they are both more susceptible to injury, especially following the type of year both of them just experienced.
What if Bryant bangs knees with an opposing shooting guard? What if Nash gets shoved a little too hard in the back?
The reality is that Bryant and Nash will never boast the same level of health they once did in the past. If each of them can handle the rigors of an 82-game schedule, it will serve as a pleasant surprise.
Unfortunately, it is likely that neither will appear in every single contest, and the Lakers' play will suffer as a result.
4. Inconsistent Offensive Production
Whether or not Bryant and Nash return for the long haul, the Lakers' offensive production will display inconsistency throughout the course of the season. A couple of players may bring steadiness, but everybody else will embrace the unexpected.
Take Nick Young, for example, who served as Los Angeles' leading scorer in 2013-14 with 22.8 points per 36 minutes. While there were games in which Swaggy P caught fire, he also put forth performances that were absolutely dreadful. Check out this stretch from January 3 to January 15 and see for yourself:
|1/10||Los Angeles||L 87-123||.214||.000||1.000||11|
Some of the blame can rightly be placed on the Lakers' unfortunate situation last season, as lineups were constantly changed due to a plethora of injuries.
However, most of the fault lies with Young and his tendency to regularly force up unwarranted attempts.
With Swaggy P returning on a brand new contract this year, expect the uncertain production to continue. Mix this in alongside other inconsistent players such as Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson, as well as new pieces such as an aging Carlos Boozer and an unproven Julius Randle, and it is clear the overall offensive output will vary on any given night.
For a team that is competing for a playoff spot, consistency is key. The Lakers won't have it, and this will ultimately hurt their chances at qualifying.
3. Lack of a True Starting Center
Offense is obviously an important part of basketball. However, no team can truly flourish without at least a decent defensive effort.
One crucial aspect of a strong defense is a sufficient big man who can hold the fort down low. Alas, this is something the Lakers sorely lack.
Currently, Robert Sacre is the lone 7-footer on the roster, and he will probably only play in spurts come 2014-15.
Translation: At this point, Los Angeles does not boast a single true center who will log meaningful time next season. In fact, the Lakers don't even have any capable players who surpass 6'10".
Jordan Hill is expected to gobble up the majority of minutes at the 5. While the 6'10" workhorse is bound to provide his fair share of defensive stops, he will struggle when facing bigger, taller centers who can use their size advantage against him.
Free-agent signee Ed Davis—who produced a solid defensive rating of 103 with the Memphis Grizzlies last year—is arguably the Lakers' best frontcourt defender moving forward. Sadly, even he cannot escape his fate, as he stands at 6'10" and will fall victim to the length superiority of his opponents.
It is worth noting that Davis and Hill are reliable rim-protectors, as they finished 2013-14 with 1.6 and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes, respectively. But as far as defending other bigs at the 5 goes, next year will prove tough.
Concerning Boozer and Randle, both of their defensive deficiencies will easily get exposed. Boozer is notoriously terrible on D, and Randle is a work in progress at this point.
Entering this next campaign, the Lakers will present a small lineup. This might end up working offensively (if the aforementioned inconsistency isn't an issue), but the interior defense will suffer.
2. All-Around Subpar Defense
Los Angeles' absence of adequate height will only contribute to a portion of an overall poor defensive output. Although the Lakers won't allow 109.2 points per game as they did under Mike D'Antoni last season, the team will still offer up subpar play on this end of the court.
New head coach Byron Scott is intent on enhancing Los Angeles' defensive efforts. Recently, he explained his plan to NBA.com's Mike Trudell:
Defensive philosophy has to be constant. This is no knock on Mike at all, but there were games where they were playing defense one way, and other games where they played it differently. When I go into the season, there are three ways we’re going to guard side pick and rolls, for example: we’re going to down it, hard show, or red it (trap). If you do it from day one, guys get better at it because they’re working on it every day in practice. I want to establish those things day-to-day, and if you do that, it takes a lot of the thinking away and gets back to reacting.
Scott will stress defense, and the Lakers will subsequently improve.
However, with the players they possess, they just won't do so by much.
In addition to the aforementioned trials that the bigs will endure, many of the Lakers' perimeter players have their defensive weaknesses as well.
Jeremy Lin can contain his man, but he tends to get lost off the ball. Johnson and Henry are decent, but they will struggle against skilled wings. Young is offensive-minded, and his exertion on defense will be inconsistent. And when Nash checks into the contest, all hope will be lost.
Even Kobe, who has qualified for 12 All-Defensive teams in his day, is a huge question mark on this end. Are his knees capable of handling significant responsibility on both sides of the ball? Most likely, his defense will take a hit.
With these types of doubts and shortcomings, Los Angeles won't prove a force in stopping the opposition.
Additionally, Coach Scott failed to land the Cleveland Cavaliers outside the bottom five in defensive efficiency all three years he coached there. It is evident the Lakers will not drastically rise the ranks defensively.
Los Angeles' efforts will get better. But the team will still finish among the 10 worst defenses, and this will accordingly end the season early in April.
1. Talented Western Conference
Despite everything previously discussed, one could still see the Lakers fighting for a low seed if they were in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately, they reside within the stacked Western Conference, and the plethora of competent clubs is too much for Los Angeles to handle.
With elite teams such as the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder, the high-flying Los Angeles Clippers and the sharpshooting Golden State Warriors, the top of the conference is completely closed to the Lakers.
However, even the eighth seed is out of the Lakers' reach, as the clubs expected to jockey for that final spot boast big advantages over Los Angeles.
How can the Lakers' inconsistent offense overcome the stifling defense of the Memphis Grizzlies? What will serve as the team's defensive approach against the New Orleans Pelicans' two-headed monster of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik? Will Lin and Nash successfully slow the quickness of Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and potentially Eric Bledsoe, who are the three point guards for the Phoenix Suns?
Essentially, the West is just too talented for Los Angeles' current roster. The presence of all these teams alone will squash the Lakers' playoff hopes right from the get-go.