Ranking Lakers' Biggest Strengths Through 2 MonthsDecember 23, 2021
Ranking Lakers' Biggest Strengths Through 2 Months
It hasn't been a nightmare start to the 2021-22 NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it's in that ballpark.
The team can't gain traction in the standings, the rotation is perpetually reshuffling because of injuries, illness and inconsistency and the team lacks a discernible identity.
Having said all of that, it's hard to bail on this team. Warts and all, the Lakers can still strike fear in their opponents, as the combined star power alone of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook is enough to think that—to borrow a phrase from Boston Celtics lore—anything is possible.
The Lakers might have some glaring weaknesses, but they have some potent strengths, too. Let's dissect the sharpest weapons in their arsenal.
You may have heard a joke this summer—or a thousand—about the collective age of L.A.'s roster. It's true; the roster is mostly ancient.
But that can be a good thing in certain respects, chief among them anything related to experience.
That's perhaps best reflected in the club's 5-1 record in games decided by three points or fewer. There's no panic in this team, and it shows when the stakes are heightened.
Moreover, this roster has managed to stay connected amid almost perpetual change to the rotation. Things have threatened to derail this team, but it always finds a way to duck out of the worst-case scenario. The Lakers have yet to lose more than three games in a row, and, entering Tuesday, they've only had one such slump.
2. Transition Offense
Russell Westbrook hasn't made life easy for the Lakers in their half-court offense, where his turnover issues and shooting limitations can be hard to overcome.
But his impact on the transition offense has been obvious and, at times, electric.
In a single season, the Lakers have rocketed from 21st to first in pace and jumped from 11th to third in fast-break points. When they aren't attacking a set defense, they can still conjure up images of Showtime, as both Westbrook and James can knife through backpedaling defenders for thunderous finishes or on-point passes to teammates.
"Their open-court chemistry has been there since Day 1," Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "When I was talking to you guys about how good they have looked in practice, that's what I was seeing. Those open-court situations have been really dynamic, really exciting, really fun to be a part of."
1. LeBron James
There are myriad reasons why the Lakers shouldn't win the title this season, but there's one giant reason they can't be ruled out of the race.
They have LeBron James, and teams with LeBron James always have a knockout-powered puncher's chance.
Analysts and the stat sheet will both tell you the 36-year-old—37 before the calendar flips to 2022—isn't quite what he's been in the past. What they fail to mention, though, is that he's still one of only three players averaging 25 points, six rebounds and six assists, or that the Lakers are 6.3 points better per 100 possessions with him than without, per NBA.com.
Take James off this roster, and the Lakers never get a peep in the championship conversation. But he is on the roster, so his crown demands a certain level of respect in those discussions.