Los Angeles Lakers: Why Have They Dominated the Competition Thus Far?
The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a fantastic start. Their record stands at 7-0 and with the dreadful Minnesota Timberwolves coming to town, LA should cruise to 8-0.
I understand that it's still early in the season, and that the Lakers can become complacent (evident in the Toronto game) but there's a different energy radiating from this squad than in past years.
Everyone knows the pecking order and what role they play for this team. There isn't any controversy on who should start or anyone clamoring for more minutes. When a talented team has order and great chemistry, it usually results in wins, and the Lakers have proven this early on in the season.
Here are the reasons why the Lakers are off to a great start.
Improved Bench Play
Laker fans have already noticed the improved bench play in the early parts of this season. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake, both new additions to the Lakers, have brought a different dimension to the bench squad.
Steve is a solid three-point shooter has opened up the floor for both Kobe and Gasol to operate in the post. Matt Barnes has been terrific and is the perfect energy/hustle player the Lakers have sorely needed coming off the pine. He's a fantastic rebounder on both ends of the floor and is a solid wing defender.
Another reason why the Lakers bench has played so well is because of the electric Shannon Brown. Known mostly for his dunks, Shannon has changed that perception and has worked on his overall game, especially his three-point shooting.
His shooting mechanics and form has changed and he has more of an arc when he shoots from the perimeter. He also seems more comfortable with the triangle. It's great that Shannon decided to hit the gym over the offseason and work on his game rather than become complacent. Because he has worked on his shooting, Phil will continue to play him.
As a team, the Lakers have been on fire from behind the arc. Ron Artest has been shooting the ball well from three-point range and seems more comfortable in the triangle. Blake was signed to specifically be a threat from outside, and he hasn't disappointed. Even Shannon Brown's improved mechanics have made him a threat from outside (shooting above 50 percent thus far in the season)
The offense runs much more smoothly when the three ball is going in, and it is a big reason why the Lakers are leading the league in scoring. Having continued success from three-point range will be important, especially when Bynum returns.
Kobe's Willingness To Defer
Kobe Bryant continues to say he's healthy, but that's a lie. He doesn't have the lift on jumpers and hasn't played well on the defensive end these past seven games.
Number 24 will eventually get healthy but for right now, the Lakers have leaned on their seven-foot Spaniard. Pau Gasol has had a fantastic start to the season and has ended all debates on who the best big in the game is. Gasol is averaging a double-double and has been a force on the defensive end.
Because Kobe is a little hurt, he has allowed Gasol to be the focal point of the offense. In these past two years, Gasol has clearly been the number two option on offense but Kobe has allowed the Spaniard to be 1B instead. This takes the strain off Kobe's knees so he can eventually become 100% healthy while also giving Gasol the opportunity to spread his wings a bit.
This will only benefit the team come playoff time.