Lakers Still Face Fatal Fundamental Problems — Changes Coming?

Los Angeles Lakers, Ray Allen, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2021-22 NBA season with the hopes of fielding enough star power to overwhelm opposing teams. The duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis already has won a championship and adding Russell Westbrook into the mix was supposed to elevate the group.

So far, the Lakers have posted a mere 10-11 record following 141-137 loss to the Sacramento Kings in 3OT during Friday’s NBA action. LeBron James (30), Russell Westbrook (29), and Anthony Davis (23) each combined for 82 points on 29/65 (44.6%) FG, 4/22 (18.2%), and 20/28 (71.4%) with 12 turnovers.

The Lakers’ roster relies on its superstar talents to play at superstar levels. Westbrook ended up playing a statistically quality performance while James and Davis each underachieved. Even with Malik Monk (20) and Carmelo Anthony (16) combining for an efficient 36 points, there wasn’t enough to defeat the Kings.

One fact is clear, opposing teams are going to give this team their best effort on a nightly basis. Whether it’s the superstar names, the national spotlight, or the iconic franchise label, there is no shortage of motivation for opponents.

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“We knew coming into the season that nobody was going to give us nothing,” Davis said, via ESPN. “No one was going to feel sorry for us. No one was going to feel bad for us. We got to go out and take it. And that’s the fun in it. It makes it all worth it in the end when you got to grind for it and work for it like we have to. Holding the trophy at the end of the year is going to feel a lot better.”

While other teams get up to play the Lakers, it’s clear that level of execution is not being matched. There are still frequent befuddling mistakes on defense being made coupled with the fact that it’s been challenging to receive high quality outings from each of their superstars.

There is still no shortage of optimism from the Lakers’ star players in public comments. Russell Westbrook has made it clear that blocking out the outside noise is key along with making it a point to ‘never panic.’

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“One thing I live by is never, never, never panic,” said Westbrook. “Don’t panic. Stick with each other, never spread out in times like this regardless of what people may think outside of our locker room of how quickly they think we should be playing this way, that way. It’s a long year.”

While it’s admirable for Westbrook to share that sentiment, the Los Angeles Lakers have shown concerning limitations to their roster. The team has to go above and beyond as an offensive force with the reliance on salary cap spending dedicated to superstar players. So far, the Lakers are producing just 0.92 points per possession (PPP) within the half-court — ranking 22nd in the NBA.

Even in areas where excellence would be expected, the Lakers have struggled. Los Angeles hasn’t been elite in any one area offensively and despite having talents like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony, the team’s output of 0.807 PPP in such plays ranks ahead of just the San Antonio Spurs (0.732 PPP), Detroit Pistons (0.738 PPP), New Orleans Pelicans (0.776 PPP), and LA Clippers (0.796 PPP).

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Getting stops and rebounding have been a problem for the Lakers, too. Coming off a season where the team allowed 0.974 PPP put them fourth in the NBA, they’re are giving up a similar output at 0.969 PPP but the rest of the league has ramped up their impact. Whether partly due to the Wilson ball impacting shooting or the rule changes making it more challenging to have explosive offensive results, the Lakers have regressed in relation to other teams.

All the while the Lakers’ 49.1% total rebounding percentage ranks 21st among all teams despite often playing two bigs in the starting lineup and two perimeter players in James and Westbrook who have been among the NBA’s top rebounding perimeter players for many years. It’s a testament to the impact of not gaining quality dribble penetration and defensive rotations to be in position for rebounds to finish plays.

Meanwhile, Anthony Davis has talked about ‘what ifs’ as solutions. He mentioned how a 10-game winning streak or a 12-game winning streak could ‘shut everybody up.’ That would be an outcome from way out of left field considering the team’s longest winning-streak lasted three-games with two of those wins coming against the NBA-worst Houston Rockets.

“You know, 10-11, I mean, we could go on a 10-game winning streak, 12-game winning streak, now the narrative is different,” Davis said. “You know, 10-game winning streak, we’re 20-11. Now we’ll shut everybody up. But it’s on us. We’re going to have to do it. It’s not just going to be easy.”

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The Los Angeles Lakers are a far ways away from being a title threat at the levels they are currently executing on both ends of the floor. A coaching change seems to be likely given the rumblings around the league. However, making meaningful changes to the roster will be a challenge after the Russell Westbrook trade depleted assets and tradable contracts.

About Grant Afseth 1066 Articles
Grant Afseth is a contributor to NBA Analysis Network who specializes in creating in-depth analysis. He also covers the Texas NBA teams for FanNation.