A little less than ten percent of the way into the Los Angeles Lakers' season, it is easy to see this is going to be another rough year for the purple and gold. While things could well improve, the playoff pipe dream the team spoke about before the season looks hopelessly out of reach. When digging into the numbers, many of the team's weaknesses are what you would expect, but here are some numbers that emphasize the struggles for Los Angeles.
5- The number of consecutive seasons Lakers head coach Byron Scott will have coached a team in the bottom-five in defensive efficiency if the Lakers' current 29th ranking holds. The Lakers are currently giving up 108.8 points per 100 possessions, and not all of that is on Scott. The Lakers lack any standout defenders outside of Roy Hibbert, and try as he might, one man cannot plug all of the leaks that spring up throughout the game on a roster filled with young, mistake-prone players and aging veterans. This is the biggest on-court problem the Lakers currently face to keep them from getting wins, and will likely be the main factor sinking them this season.
20- The Lakers' ranking among NBA offenses. If a team has the second worst defense in the league, they are going to have to score like gangbusters every night to be competitive, and that has not been the case so far for the Lakers, who are currently scoring 99 points per 100 possessions. A bottom-five defense combined with a well below average offense has led to the Lakers being outscored by 9.8 points per 100 possessions, the third worst Net rating in the NBA.
96- The total minutes played by the Lakers' most used lineup, their preferred starters of Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, and Hibbert. The problem is, this lineup has the second worst defensive rating (112.9) of groupings that have played more than 10 minutes. To say this grouping is not getting it done on the offensive end of the floor would be an understatement, scoring just 88.9 points per 100 possessions.
There are a myriad of reasons for this, one being the attrocious shooting of Bryant (32%, second worst on the team) combined with his usage rate (28.2%, highest among players playing over 10 minutes a game). Bryant is also taking 8 three-pointers per game (highest on the team) while shooting just 20.8% from distance (third lowest percentage on the team among players who have made a three). This should be obvious, but if the lowest efficiency player on a team's roster uses the most possessions, that is bad, especially if it is compounded by that player being arguably the worst defender among the team's starters. Bryant is a Lakers legend, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the team's highest paid player. But if the team continues to allow him to use such a high percentage of it's possessions whenever he returns from his back injury, they are going to be very bad this year, there is just no way around it.
24.3- Speaking of Lakers guards with high usage rates, Lou Williams. Williams' 24.3% of possessions used while on the floor is second to Bryant's among players
not named Robert Sacre playing over 10 minutes per game, and while he has not been as inefficient as Bryant, that is also not exactly a high bar to clear in 2015. Williams' true shooting percentage (which accounts for the added value of three pointers and free throws) is 50.3%, still well above Bryant's 44.4%, but not where it needs to be to justify Williams taking touches from the Lakers young guards. It is one thing for Byron Scott to defer to Bryant, a Lakers legend in possibly his last season, but quite another to feed so many possessions to Williams at the expense of Russell, Clarkson, and Randle's development.
10.2- Williams' average fourth quarter minutes per game, the most on the team. I don't mean to pick on Williams, he doesn't choose the team's rotations, but if this trend continues the Lakers will have completely wasted an opportunity for their young backcourt of Clarkson and Russell to get end of game reps in a relatively low pressure season. This is especially confounding because, as written above, Williams has not even played particularly well, and certainly not well enough to justify either Clarkson (twice) and Russell (three times) sitting on the pine for entire fourth quarters while Williams and Bryant lose games anyway.
118.8- Brandon Bass' defensive rating. He should probably never play center, and certainly not while sharing the floor with Ryan Kelly. At least that experiment seems to be over.
The numbers are not pretty, as you would expect for a team that has lost 7 of their first 8 games. This team can and likely will improve over the course of the season as they continue to make adjustments and the young players gain NBA experience. Based on the numbers above, there is almost nowhere to go but up.