The Lakers are bad. Very bad. 20 win pace-type bad. However, even with very modest expectations coming into the season, it's still incredibly disappointing to see the team hurtling towards the worst record in franchise history.
What, if anything, do you see coming that could help make the Lakers at least competitive night to night? What cavalry could you see coming? Barring a trade, how does this team get better internally?
The short answer is there's no solution. This roster does not have the talent to compete on a night-to-night basis in the Western Conference. If Julius Randle hadn't gone down with a broken leg, one idea would be to give him plenty of playing time to help develop him faster. But alas, that isn't the case, and I doubt it would make much of an improvement regardless. The Lakers have a shortage of talent on their roster with any sort of potential for improvement. In terms of a possible trade, I would hope that the Lakers would not look to add talent by trading this year. It sucks to be all doom and gloom, but the best thing to do is wait this out and trade for any draft picks or long-term assets that you can at the deadline.
It would appear unlikely that there is any type of significant internal improvement on the way for this Lakers team. The purple and gold are currently neck and neck with the Timberwolves for last place in team defensive rating (111.9), and their offense is beginning to regress towards the ineffectiveness that many predicted going into the year (currently 15th in the league in OffRtg) following a hot mid-range shooting start.
The Lakers are certainly dealing with a number of under-performing players, but within the team's current offensive system it is hard to see any of them improving very much. So ultimately, this seemingly falls on head coach Byron Scott as much as anyone. No reasonable observer could have expected great things, or even the playoffs from this roster, but with the pieces in place it could be slightly better than the 20 win pace that the team is currently on. While that may end up being the better path to take for the Lakers' future, it does not change that if we had to pick one person who could improve the team internally, looking at the man overseeing the mess on the floor would be a good place to start.
There's no reason to beat around the bush here: these are the Lakers. This is the season they'll be having. No trade will magically fix this and make them a competitive team. All improvement will have to come internally, and through 20 games, there seems to be little-to-no reason to expect that's coming. Optimism is great fuel for any fan base, but the tank is empty right now. Your '14-15 Lakers are a very bad team.
If Byron Scott could find a way to get the defense on the page, though, that'd be a start. He's claimed to have simplified the scheme twice now, to the point he can't strip it down any further, but there's been no tangible improvement there. Tinkering with the lineup is another avenue to take, but when you're switching out moldy fruit for other moldy fruit, you still have moldy fruit.
Ultimately it's time to accept it. It is what it is. Again. Hopefully the team that remains can maintain their health, Kobe can prove to potential free agent targets he's still got it but needs some help, and maybe that top-five protected pick comes back to Los Angeles.
The Great Mambino
It feels like we're playing a broken record around here, but until the defense gets better, there's no hope for this team improving. Fans can talk all they want about Kobe's shooting volume, Jeremy Lin's struggles, Wesley Johnson's limitations and the spacing Nick Young brings, but none of that really matters when this is the worst defensive squad in the NBA.
Byron Scott, for his part, has made moves as of late to remedy that. The team was lacking a serious dose of defensive energy to begin the game, getting far behind in the first quarter of most of their games. He's replaced Jeremy Lin with the scrappy Ronnie Price and Carlos Boozer with Ed Davis, though with a one game sample size and a visibly confused rotation, it's hard to say whether or not it'll make that much of a difference. Really, the only other card to play here is to insert Jordan Clarkson in the line-up and see if he can make any semblance of a difference on the defensive end of the floor. Odds are that a second round rookie won't be able to do much—the NBA learning curve is a bit too steep, in my opinion.
The biggest problem here is that with Young having already returned and players like Julius Randle, Xavier Henry and Steve Nash out for the season, this is the team that the Lakers have. The front office isn't trading for help before February and there is no cavalry on the horizon. The only hope LA has is that their new rotations bring a different type of defensive energy. However, until then, I don't see them getting any better.