Los Angeles Lakers: Possible Concerns for the Rest of the Season
The Los Angeles Lakers are 8-2, Kobe Bryant looks strong and Pau Gasol looks like a possible MVP candidate, plus one of their two losses came from the Phoenix Suns shooting like Annie Oakley on Sunday night.
They have not been out of a game yet, and have dominated many of their opponents, leaving blowouts and bruised egos in their wake.
That doesn't mean, however, that they can't still get better. Everybody can improve upon something, and if the Lakers were to improve upon anything, then they could easily turn from a great team to an historic team.
So, here we have five things that the Lakers could improve upon, to further their stranglehold on the Western Conference.
The Lakers are getting out-everythinged when it comes to bench production.
In 10 games so far this season, the Lakers bench has been more efficient than their opponents only three times, with an average of 32.1 to 41.3.
The bench is worse at shooting, rebounding, assisting and defending, and commits just as many fouls in fewer minutes than its opponents. The bench players must be commended for their 3-point proficiency and free throw shooting, though.
If the bench production were to step up a bit, there wouldn't be so much pressure on Phil Jackson to play the starters so many minutes, saving their legs and allowing them to play at a higher level at the end of games.
In pee-wee basketball, when learning how to play defense, what is the first thing you learn when grabbing a rebound?
It should have been pounded into each and every person in the NBA since he was five years old, which is why it drives me crazy when I see players lazily throw an arm in front of their opponent and meekly go for the rebound, only to have a more aggressive player snatch it away from them.
The Lakers are doing a good job of rebounding the ball on offense; unfortunately, their opponents are doing just as well.
They are averaging 14.5 offensive rebounds a game, an excellent number, a number that gives them second chances galore during a game.
However, they are allowing the other team 14.2 offensive rebounds per contest, a horrible number, a number that gives their opponent second chances galore during a game.
Now, you can chalk one or two of those a game to a bad bounce, but it all comes down to finding your man, boxing him out, and grabbing the board. Losing a rebound to a more aggressive player is unacceptable.
Rest Those Starters
Ever since coming to the Lakers, Pau Gasol has averaged at least 37 minutes a game, and is up to 38.7 minutes, and has played 40 or more minutes six times this season.
Yes, he is a professional athlete and is conditioned to play this much, but he would benefit from extra time on the bench from time to time.
This should not be a problem when Andrew Bynum comes back, whenever that may be, but for the time being, give some of the bench boys a few more minutes and see if they can prove themselves.
The Lakers starters are averaging 164.1 minutes per game, while their opponents have their starting five on the floor for 150.1 minutes, a number that could eventually wear the aging stars on the Lakers down bit by bit.
The Lakers opponents are averaging about 7.8 steals per game against them, bringing the Lakers turnover total to just over 14 per game.
They are just slightly below average on both numbers, and seem to have one problem in the category. Sloppy passes.
It seems inevitable in each game that the team will have a few passes that are either out of reach of the player being passed to, leading to the ball flying out of bounds, or are tipped by an opponent and taken down the court for an easy two points.
If they can get their passing game under control, then they will win games with even more ease.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask one question? What wins championships and is something the Lakers aren't playing much of lately?
If you said defense, then I'd say that you are absolutely correct.
Los Angeles is currently ranked 20th in points allowed, giving up a whopping 103.6 per game.
There are three things that could be reasoned for the seemingly poor defense that the Lakers are playing right now.
First, they could be struggling without Andrew Bynum down low, who is a big body to clog the lane and is a much better shot blocker than Lamar Odom, and the defense will return to form with his return.
Second, they could still be adjusting to the arrival of new players. Both Matt Barnes and Steve Blake, who are each averaging around 20 minutes a game are still rotating into the scheme and should be given time to shore up their knowledge of the offensive and defensive plan.
Third, they could be slacking off on defense due to their extremely potent offense.
If this is the case then Phil Jackson needs to nip this in the bud so they do not create a habit out of using their offense as their defense, as it is not an effective way to play come playoff time.