The Los Angeles Lakers have only won 12 out of their first 41 games so far this season. Here are three reasons why Lakers fans should not be surprised if the team’s win total does not increase over the remaining 41 games:
1. The Lakers defense has been woeful this season
Fans can use the ‘eye test’ to see hundreds of plays this season that shows lackluster performance, such as Damion Lilliard knifing through the defense from the top of the key during a game last week.
The Lakers team defense ranks 29th in the league, allowing 4367 points, second only to the Timberwolves. Their defensive efficiency ranks 28th in the league, allowing 106.5 points per game and an adjusted field goal percentage of 52.1%.
Coming out of the gate this season, Lakers coach Byron Scott told ESPN.com at his opening press conference, “First of all, defense, we got to do that on a night-to-night basis.” However, instead of maximizing team effort, the Lakers defense has been notorious for late rotations and opponents shooting wide open three-point shots.
2. Kobe Bryant’s lack of production has hurt the Lakers for most of the season
Bryant’s usage vs. what the Lakers are getting from him has become destructive. He is leading the NBA in possession usage, but also has a career low true shooting percentage of 49% (includes Field Goal percentage and Free Throw percentage).
He is putting up some of the worst efficiency numbers in his career. His all-time low Field Goal Percentage of 37.2% includes making 30% of his three-point shots and 40% of his two-point shots.
Additionally, Los Angeles’ offense is 5.1 points worse per 100 possessions when Bryant is on the floor. When Bryant takes a breather, five of his nine teammates’ true field goal percentages increase from 2.5% (Jordan Hill) to 15.2% (Wayne Ellington).
Perhaps cognizant of his performance this season, Bryant would be willing to let Scott pull the plug on his age-36 season.
3. The Lakers are looking ahead to upcoming Free Agents
The Lakers are expending energy planning to make a pitch to lure Kevin Love and Kevin Durant during the summer Free Agency period in 2016.
Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said he would want to “play with a guy like Kobe Bryant,” wrote Sam Amick of USA Today. According to Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Durant also said of Bryant:
I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I’d want to play with a guy like that every day. [His style] may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff.
Besides Durant, the Lakers might be in a better position to sign Kevin Love in free agency than they initially predicted back in August due to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ struggles this season, wrote Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.
Love reportedly plans to opt in and remain in Cleveland through the 2015/16 season, when Bryant’s contract comes off the books.
If Bryant can take a discount and a backseat role in 2016, the additions of Durant and Love would make the Lakers relevant and interesting.
Besides the prospect of a high lottery draft pick during each of the next two off-seasons, the Summer of 2016 is the next area of concentration for the organization.