There are several things wrong with the Lakers, and they're all fixable. Here's my ranking in order:
- Their defense isn't very good. Mike Brown is one of the better defensive coaches in the game and Dwight Howard is one of the best defensive players. But other than Dwight, the Lakers aren't great individual defenders. Pau is passable, Kobe's old, and Nash is horrible. When the Heat got together, they had a great collection of above average individual defenders, so even though they couldn't get lock down stops against sophisticated sets (like the ones run by the Celtics for example), they could still shut down teams running a lot of iso. It took the Heat more than one season for their defense to really come together. If that's the case for the Lakers, they'll likely be subpar all year - but if they keep Mike Brown and add a couple defense-first role players, they do have a shot to fix it.
- Their offense isn't very good. They have some of the best offensive players in the game, and you can kind of see that. Kobe and Dwight were both very good offensively in their second game against the Blazers, for example. But that won't be good enough once they start playing teams that are better than the Mavs and Blazers, neither of which will be very competitive this year. The Lakers need Steve Nash to run the offense and understand how to fully utilize Pau in the post, Kobe on the wing, and Dwight as a back-up option. But none of that will happen for a few weeks or perhaps longer. They're currently trying to make a go of practicing a very structured offensive system (the Princeton offense) that many people (including me) think is a poor fit for their talent. Coach Brown said after the first game he's OK with Nash freestyling a bit, but Nash will take some time to feel comfortable doing that.
- The players are thinking too much, and that's a killer at this level. Dwight noticeably had the yips during his first game and that was mostly gone by the second game. But other than Kobe, the whole team seems to be playing a step slow. They're still definitely feeling each other out. From watching Miami struggle with a lot of the same issues for about a year and a half, we know that progress won't be gradual, but will come in bursts. There will be some halftime speech or slight that fuels the team, and they'll fall into playing without thinking and we'll get a glimpse of their potential. And then they'll take a step back, rinse, and repeat.
They're going to be fine. They're going to win more than fifty games this year and get into the playoffs. There are many reasons to believe they're not a lock to win it all, but they might.
For non-Lakers fans it's definitel a fun story and will likely end Sunday when they play the Pistons at home (I'm predicting a loss Friday against the Clippers). I'd watch for them to start turning it around next week after Blake Griffin has posterized them and forces them to cauterize and take it out on the poor Pistons.
More questions on NBA Season 2012-13:
- Are the Heat, Lakers, and Thunder the only contenders for the 2012/2013 NBA Championship?
- Did the NBA make a mistake by scheduling the Knicks as the visiting team for the Nets first home game in Brooklyn?
- What five players could beat ESPN's Top Five NBA players of 2012 in a game?