The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled offensively all season, but they’ve been especially bad without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo.
In the 11 games they’ve played without James and Rondo, they’ve posted the worst offensive rating in the NBA. Prior to that, they were ranked 17th in the league.
Walton’s offensive scheme has been heavily criticized since he took over as head coach in 2016 and much of that criticism has been justified. However, Rondo told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN that he thinks the Lakers’ offense is at its best when it’s free-flowing:
“Someone asked me today if we have enough plays. The game isn’t so much about having plays; it’s about playing the right way. Because if you have plays, you’re easy to scout. If you don’t have plays and you put guys in certain structures that have the right skills and know how to play in the game, then you’re a lot tougher to defend.”
When James and Rondo are on the floor, that makes sense. They’re two of the most high basketball IQ players in the league and they can be trusted to initiate the offense. However, when neither James or Rondo are on the floor, the Lakers struggle to get that free-flowing offense going.
Brandon Ingram has tried to be that player in their absence, with little-to-no success. Lonzo Ball has the potential to be that player, but his limited offensive game often prevents him from taking over.
Beyond those two players, there’s no one on the roster that has shown promise in that regard. It certainly hasn’t been Lance Stephenson or Michael Beasley, who team president Magic Johnson signed because of their ability to “handle the basketball, and break the defenses down, and create their own shot.”
The Lakers just simply don’t have the personnel to run the offense they want to run when James and Rondo are out, and it shows.
That’s also why it’s important for Walton to have a reliable play or two he can run to get the basket. Right now, he doesn’t have that and the Lakers have suffered for it, particularly in tight games.
James and Rondo won’t be back for at least another few weeks, so Walton and his coaching staff will have to figure it out until then.