3 Takeaways from Lakers' November Performance
There were flashes of encouragement, no shortage of frustrations and injuries, the latter of which remains an issue and threatens to persist throughout the campaign given the collective mileage logged by this veteran-heavy roster.
Because L.A. made so many changes this summer—only LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker donned the purple and gold last season—it's still too early to make sweeping generalizations about this club. But there are things we have learned, so let's examine the top three takeaways from November.
Russell Westbrook Still Finding His Fit
Russell Westbrook was a franchise fixture for the Oklahoma City Thunder until he wasn't. After spending the first 11 seasons of his NBA career in the Sooner State, he's now on his third different team in three years since his departure.
That's a big adjustment on its own, but the learning curve has been especially steep in Los Angeles. He's sharing lead ball-handling duties with LeBron James, and those two must ensure Anthony Davis gets his touches, too. This is all happening on a lineup that doesn't have great spacing to begin with and has shuffled players in and out of it due to injury.
That's a long-winded way of saying Westbrook deserves more time to find his form, even if some of the biggest preseason worries about his arrival have seemingly come to fruition.
It's hard to say how good the 33-year-old will ever be for the Lakers, but hopefully there are brighter days ahead. Entering Wednesday, the team was 4.5 points worse per 100 possessions with him than without.
Lakers Need to Find Their Identity
The Lakers might have a lot of recognizable faces, but they lack a discernible identity.
Sometimes they push the tempo, and sometimes they plod. Sometimes they try to win scoring races, and sometimes they hope their defense can be the difference. Sometimes they start Anthony Davis at center, sometimes they play him at power forward next to a traditional center and too often don't feature him enough on offense.
If the Lakers hope to be great—when you roster LeBron James, every season is graded on the championship-or-bust scale—they need to figure out what they can be great at.
The defense improved in November (12th in efficiency), but it's still nowhere near elite. And the offense remained a disaster (24th). Defense is probably the best path forward, but balance is the real aim, and L.A. really needs it since there might be too many sieves in the rotation for the defense to ever dominate.
This Season All Hinges on LeBron
Want to know the main reason to keep hope alive for this Lakers team? Two words: LeBron James.
When the 36-year-old's health cooperates, he can still summon his best-player-on-the-planet superpowers. His skills and smarts have helped him age as gracefully as possible, although his NBA odometer is surfacing more and more on the injury front.
If James can find a way to stay healthy and perform at something close to his usual MVP-caliber level, the Lakers will have a shot to make this a special season.
If injuries are his new norm and his on-court impact isn't quite what it has been in the past, L.A. might not make a peep in the championship discussion.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.