The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are a daunting opponent for every team in the league. With a record of 55-21, the Lakers are the top seed in the west and second only to the Cavaliers overall. Yet, despite this, the Lakers have repeatedly shown key weaknesses throughout the season that could lead to their downfall, the most principle one being their point guards.
While the Triangle Offense does not require a traditional point guard, it is an undeniable truth that the Laker point guards are among the worst in the league. The starter, Derek Fisher, has repeatedly proven himself to be one of the most inefficient players in NBA history.
Fisher, 35, is averaging a paltry 7.5 points per game on an abysmal 37.6 percent from the field. Fisher's poor shooting often allows for double teams on Kobe Bryant. Fisher stalls the offense with his selfish play and jacking-up of ill-advised shots. More often than not, Derek Fisher will kill a fast break by refusing to give up the ball and then subsequently blowing a lay-up or attempting a low percentage jumper.
Fisher is arguably even more detrimental to the team on defense. Fisher—never athletic to begin with—has deteriorated with age and is now among the slowest players in the league. Night after night, possession after possession, Fisher is burned by a younger, faster point guard. His lack of ability to cover his man often leads to defensive breakdowns as other players have to cover for him.
Fisher is no longer able to guard even another NBA geezer in 34 year old Chauncey Billups, who dropped a career high on the Lakers thanks to Fisher's defense. A team with an All-Star caliber point guard as well as a star wing player—such as the Cleveland Cavaliers—could give the Lakers a lot of trouble.
With Fisher on the team, it's almost as if the Lakers are playing 4-on-5. And Coach Phil Jackson is too loyal to sit Fisher on the bench where he belongs.
Even if he did, the alternatives wouldn't be much better.
Jordan Farmar has shown that he is not only a lousy player, but among the league's cockiest and laziest. Farmar plays 18 minutes a game and is Fisher's primary back-up. Farmar boasts of a 44-inch vertical and Tony Parker-esque quickness. And yet Farmar has been reduced offensively to jacking up jump shots off passes from teammates.
Farmar is completely unable to run an offense, often looking lost and passing the ball around the perimeter pointlessly instead of attempting to initiate it. While Farmar is a decent shooter, he is not a playmaker, which the Lakers desperately need when Kobe Bryant is not in the game.
Defensively, Farmar is near Fisher's level. Farmar is too weak to stay with stronger guards, tends to drift away from his man, and gets blown past because of sheer laziness on his part or gambling for a steal.
Farmar has gotten burned by nearly every one of the league's elite: Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Mo Williams, etc. Farmar also requires copious help defense to prevent a massive scoring night for whomever is lucky enough to be guarded by him.
Another alternative is Shannon Brown. Brown primarily plays the back-up shooting guard spot, but does get point guard minutes from time to time. Brown is highly athletic and a solid defender. But like Farmar and Fisher, Brown is completely unable to run an offense. Brown is among the Lakers' most selfish players, refusing to pass the ball and stalling the offense.
Brown's success during the absence of Kobe Bryant has given him the false delusion that he is an all-star-caliber scorer who is entitled to endless ball-hogging. Brown can hit a three or make a lay-up, but he makes everyone around him significantly worse.
The lack of point guard capability has cost the Lakers team chemistry as well as 21 games this season. It is by far the Lakers biggest flaw and may well be the cause of their elimination.