Well, here we are, one week into the NBA regular season. The first week of any season is always fun — old players in new places, young teams with promising futures, the unleashing of Russell Westbrook. Admittedly that last one is pretty ’16-specific, but let’s move on.
After a week of basketball, it seemed like a fine time to come up with some way-too-early assumptions based on a way-too-small sample size. After all, this new Lakers squad has now played four games together. If we don’t know everything about them already, what hope will we ever have?
This team plays hard, and plays together
The last couple seasons may have featured some underwhelming talent, but what frustrated Laker fans more was the lack of consistent effort on the court. We’re not seeing much of that so far this season.
So far, the ’16-17 Lakers look like a group of hungry young players out to prove they belong in this league, and that’s appropriate because essentially that’s what they are. They’re a tad flamboyant for an unproven bunch, but professional basketball is supposed to be fun, and the best way to maximize the development of the youngsters is to put them in the best environment to succeed. Plus, this is Los Angeles. We encourage flamboyancy. WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA, TODD GURLEY.
Most fans have realistic expectations this season, meaning we aren’t expecting a lot more wins than losses. The one thing we do want to see is consistent effort. With the abundance of young talent on the squad, playing with a sense of desire and motivation every night will eventually help put this team where they need to be.
Playing hard is great, but playing smart is better, and eyes must be kept on long-term prizes
A relatively universal truth in professional athletics is inexperienced, younger players often fall victim to the mental mistakes more often than experienced, veteran players. Things like timing and intuition take a little longer to acquire and shape. One thing this young offense tends to do is get clumped together on one side of the floor. Once the team is capable of improving their offensive spacing, they’ll get a few more open looks, develop a little more rhythm, and some of these close losses will start to become close wins.
Another disadvantage a lot of young teams face? They don’t get calls. Especially on the road. There will be frustrating moments throughout this season — we saw it already in Indiana last night and in Utah – where a crucial call always seems to go against LA. Now’s not the time to worry about those calls. It all evens out eventually. Hell, how many phantom fouls did Kobe pick up? Earning calls is part of the NBA hierarchy, and like a lot of other things for this Lakers team, they’ll get theirs. They just need to be patient.
Optimism and patience are great, but realistic assessments should be taken and tendencies improved in real time throughout the season. Duh.
I’ve spent most of my time writing about how excited I am about this Lakers team, and for good reason. But a 1-3 start, even though they were competitive in every game, still leaves plenty of room for improvement.
The two biggest leaks the Lakers need to plug 16 quarters into their season?
Turnovers and defense.
Those have been death blows for LA so far. The Lakers currently lead the league in turnovers (18.8 per game — an entire turnover more than the next worst team, OKC) which is leading to 24.5 points a night for their opponent – also a league high (or low, I suppose).
The defense has also struggled, particularly on the boards. Los Angeles is in a three-way tie (Memphis/Houston) for the second worst defensive rebound average in the league. Their difficulties rebounding is leading to 17.5 second chance points per game for the other team. That’s not ideal.
If you’re giving away 40 points a night on turnovers and second chance points alone you’re going to have a tough time. So far, that’s been the case.
Over the next two weeks, there are some games LA should have a strong chance of winning, and a matchup between potential future NBA powerhouses.
Other than a Friday night date with the Dubs (3/6/16 #NeverForget), the upcoming schedule is pretty manageable. Home games with Phoenix and Dallas are both winnable, and trips to Sacramento and New Orleans could provide Luke his first road W as head coach (assuming it doesn’t happen tonight in Atlanta).
But what’s circled on my calendar? How about Sunday, November 13th at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Here’s a list of some of the players that will be in that game.
- Brandon Ingram (No. 2 pick, ‘16)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (No. 1 pick, ’15)
- D’Angelo Russell (No. 2 pick, ‘15)
- Andrew Wiggins (No. 1 pick, ’14)
- Julius Randle (No. 7 pick, ‘14)
- Zach LaVine (No. 13 pick, ’14)
- Kris Dunn (No. 5 pick, ’16)
My goodness. They might as well just market this as the Rising Stars Game. That should be fun.
All in all, we’re about where we expected to be at this point in the season, and that’s pretty okay with me
Another win or two would’ve been nice, but the wins will come. The team has shown some great potential, but has plenty of things to work on as well. It’s a multi-year marathon, not a four-game sprint.
A week from now this might all be obsolete, but then again, eventually the sun’s going to explode. So it goes.