It’s fairly obvious while watching the Lakers that they lack the one thing that takes a bad team and makes them average, an average team and makes them good, and a good team and makes them great. Offensive Chemistry. The Lakers play the game offensively as if they’ve never practiced together before. I can only assume that coach Luke Walton spends what little practice time the team has on trying to hammer strong defensive principles into a young team, and just assuming that their talent alone can get them buckets on offense. Sadly, as a loyal observer, it’s clear that the team isnt just good enough to make that work.
The real cause of the struggles appears to be a serious mismatch of skill-sets. A few simple tweaks to the rotation might be able to turn a stagnant Lakers offense into a team that is almost decent to watch.
- The return of Kyle Kuzma to the starting five.
Kuzma thrived while starting for Larry Nance Jr. and while Nance hasn’t necessarily done anything that would warrant him going to the bench, his lack of scoring ability may have helped contribute to some of the slower starts they’ve had. That said, he shouldn’t just be fully relegated to the bench, because in today’s NBA, sometimes you need a quicker lineup without a true center, which leads me to my second point:
- When facing an opponent without a big center, start Larry Nance over Brook Lopez
The Lakers play a brand of basketball, specifically defensively, where they switch all picks. Half the time the pick doesn’t even happen, but the Lakers have made the switch anyway. In those situations, the only time they’re really struggling is when Lopez gets matched up against a much quicker player. It’s these lineups where the Lakers should use Nance. Nance has already shown the willingness to go against some of the best big men in the game, using his quickness and defensive prowess, so why hold your team back by using a terrible defender in Lopez, when you can use a lineup a little closer to how you’d end the game, and use a smaller quicker big?
- Recognize who is hot and let ’em ride
Too often this year, Luke Walton has stayed a little too true to his typical rotation and has sent a player to the bench who was either starting to hit his stride or who was just red-hot. Letting a player play who has started to gain a bit of momentum never hurt anyone. Conversely, it appears as though you can tell relatively early when any of KCP, Lopez, or Clarkson have it going. If they’re not playing well, perhaps forcing shots, or generally being sloppy, perhaps a few extra minutes on the pine will cure what ails them. On the flip side, Lonzo sometimes takes a half of basketball to get going. If Walton sees Lonzo being too passive or not aggressive enough, he should pull him from the game, tell him to go out there and be the point guard and a leader and then throw him right back in the game. He’s a rookie and a potential franchise player. You’re going to need him to learn how to lead and just sitting him teaches him nothing. Force him out there and sure, he’ll make mistakes, but if they’re aggressive mistakes, those are the types you can live with as he continues to mature.
The Lakers have youth on their side, excitement should follow and with these small rotation changes, I think the Lakers have a very bright future ahead of them… though getting LeBron and/or Paul George next year won’t hurt either.