The Los Angeles Lakers missed out on 2018-19 NBA playoffs despite some tipping them for success. What went wrong for the Lakers? Are they over-reliant on Lebron James? Is there hope for the future? Read on to find out.
This NBA season Lebron James surpassed Michael Jordan to become the fourth all-time scorer in NBA history. That night against the Denver Nuggets he scored 31 points on the evening in just 35 minutes.
However, despite the presence of such a generational talent, the Lakers lost that fixture comfortably, a result that serves as a microcosm of their season.
Zach Lowe, an esteemed peer of mine, had put the Lakers prior to the regular season directly playoff bound with the contingent case that the roster would manage to be healthy throughout the season. This has not been the case with injuries to Lonzo Ball and James himself hindering their progress.
LeBron James will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and this will be the first time in eight years James will not play in the NBA finals.
I strongly feel that there are a multitude of reasons why the Lakers are in their current predicament. I do not think that the issue stems from just the coaching or management failing to maintain a stable roster.
It’s a fact that LBJ needs to be surrounded by steady shooters. In all his playoff runs and championship wins he always had a steady number of solid shooters to complement his style of penetration play.
Taking a look at the roster build up, the (now departed) Magic Johnson and the GM office, unlike in the past, decided to surround LBJ with creators rather than role players or positionless players that could ultimately fall in line.
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The young core of players in Kuzma, Ingram, Ball, and Hart have been tough to incorporate around LBJ. With all this said, looking at the stats that LBJ has racked up across 47 games that he has played this season, he still ranks among the top 10 players of the league in production of points, and in around +35 minutes of play time (on some level this is so intriguing that it could be considered insanely good).
So one starts to begin thinking: with LBJ on the court the Lakers are practically solid. So what happens when he is off the court?
Over-reliance on James
James is not 25 anymore, so he does need to be rested, but what does that mean for the rotation? Without their superstar it is clear the Lakers lack a solid scoring and defensive presence.
McGee is key to deterring shots inside when switching out to play perimeter players is an issue. However, there is no backup in the paint that deters shots. Offensively when the second line of players come in, they need to instantly stop idling especially on transition positions.
Without LBJ the team drops about 15 – 20 points of scoring, and defensively becomes much worse, losing more rebounds whilst failing to force opponents to make mistakes overall.
There are also some extenuating circumstances. We all know that the Western Conference is filled up with so much talent and expectation, that something as drastic as a slight injury or slip of a game or two can make a major difference.
Comparisons with teams from the past
If I were to play devil’s advocate; looking though the 20/20 hindsight lens, comparing the current predicament of the Lakers to the recent past - I think the OKC roster from the 14-15 season resembles them the most.
Another good comparison to draw from might be the 04-05 Rockets with McGrady and Ming, who only played a combined 104 games and only managed to rack up 34 wins across the 82 game schedule.
Both comparisons, unlike the Lakers, were cases to me where management of the franchises had opted for trying to “go big or go home”.
The Lakers will probably continue to suffer from these underlying problems next year, but with strong, young players and the outside possibility of a high lottery pick, as well as the presence of a true superstar, there is some hope for next season.
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