For the second season in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to finish the regular season in the middle of the pack in terms of defensive rating. Last season, they finished 13th overall and this season, they’re ranked 15th.
However, there was a point in the season where they were a top-five defensive team and Tyson Chandler was a big reason for that. In the 10 games before Chandler signed with the Lakers, they were ranked 23rd in the league in defensive rating. In the following 30 games, they had a top-three ranked defense.
Unfortunately, lingering back pain and the emergence of Ivica Zubac limited how much Chandler saw the floor midway through the season. With 10 games left in the season, Chandler is just starting to work his way back to full strength after missing eight consecutive games.
Chandler was far from the only player that got bit by the injury bug, though, and he told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times that those injuries made it hard for the Lakers to develop chemistry on the court:
“It’s the perfect storm,” Chandler said, sitting on the Lakers bench before his warmup Tuesday in Milwaukee. “It was already going to take everybody getting used to playing with a player like LeBron, and I’m saying that in a positive way. Somebody that brings so much to the table and you really run your offense through him. He’s one of the only players in the league that are capable of you just running your offense through him.
“So when you are just kind of getting used to him and you take him out of the equation, and you have young players that are getting used to him, and you take them out of the equation, and you start putting them back, it’s tough. I’m 18 years in, I played with him on Team USA, under different circumstances. It was even difficult for me in 18 years to learn [Rajon] Rondo, learn LeBron, learn Lonzo [Ball]. Learn everybody.”
When looking at back at the Lakers’ 2018-19 season, the amount of injuries the team suffered will stand out more than anything. LeBron James and Brandon Ingram, two of the team’s are each on pace to miss a quarter of the season. Meanwhile, their starting point guard Lonzo Ball hasn’t played a game since Jan. 19 and isn’t expected to play another game this season.
Sure, injuries are part of the game, but the volume of injuries the Lakers had to fight through this season was too much for them to overcome given how poorly the roster was constructed last summer. Hopefully the front office can build a roster that can survive without its star players this time around.