Ranking Lakers' Biggest Weaknesses Through 2 Months

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 16, 2021

Ranking Lakers' Biggest Weaknesses Through 2 Months

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers aren't who we thought they were.

    Not yet, anyway.

    Billed as NBA championship contenders and still capable of playing their way into that tier, the Lakers instead find themselves in the Western Conference's midsection with only two more wins (15) than losses (13) to show for the campaign's first two months.

    What is holding this team back? Plenty of things—including injuries, which we won't discuss here—so let's examine and rank the three most significant shortcomings.

3. Turnovers

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    If you thought this roster's collective experience might lead to brilliant ball control, think again.

    Only two teams have coughed up more turnovers: the rebuilding Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, who have long tight-roped between carefree and careless basketball.

    The Lakers' stars are their biggest offenders. Russell Westbrook ranks second in the league with 4.6 giveaways per game. LeBron James sits ninth overall with 3.8, making the pair the only teammates sitting inside of the top 10.

    Without enough shooting to keep opposing defenses honest (more on that later), L.A. is too often forced to operate in problematically tight spaces. Even proven playmakers can only do so much in imperfect situations.

2. Perimeter Defense

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last season, no team had a more efficient defense than the Lakers, per NBA.com. This season, 10 different clubs do.

    That doesn't sound like a catastrophic fall, but if this offense isn't going to be great (or even average), then the only way this works is if the defense is elite. The Lakers may not have the personnel to ever get there. The offseason subtractions of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma loom large on the perimeter, especially when almost every newcomer does his best work on offense.

    "They're old, and they can't stay in front of anyone," a rival assistant coach told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.

    Avery Bradley has exceeded all expectations for a mid-October waiver addition, but Kent Bazemore fell so short of his it cost him a rotation spot. That's kind of it for perimeter stoppers until Trevor Ariza makes it back, and even then, there's only so much he can do as a 36-year-old who hasn't logged a second since May.

1. Shooting

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    The Lakers should be overloaded with shooters. That way, James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis would have maximum room to attack.

    But even that core is claustrophobic, since Davis barely takes threes anymore, and Westbrook has never knocked them down consistently.

    The issue is exacerbated when other non-shooters like Talen Horton-Tucker, Rajon Rondo or either of the traditional centers hit the hardwood. L.A. tried to bandage up this potentially fatal flaw by inking all of the shooting specialists that veteran's minimum money could buy, but specialists inherently can't handle a large role.

    Despite squeezing better than 19 points each out of James, Westbrook and Davis, the Lakers are all the way down at 23rd in offensive efficiency. They should be better than this, but the lack of spacing could hold down their ceiling all season.


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