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Laker Film Room: Why the Lakers offense failed, Part 2 - Play Design

Luke Walton had the right idea, but couldn’t get beyond Plan A when constructing an offense for the Lakers

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In part one of this series on why the Lakers offense failed, we took a look at the team’s spacing principles, and today we move on to the play design from Luke Walton and his staff.

While it isn’t necessary to watch part one for this video to make sense, the concepts do build on each other and doing so will provide an extra layer of depth as to what the heck went wrong with the offense this season, and made the Lakers the first team with LeBron James on it to finish outside the top-10 in offensive efficiency since the 2007-08 season, and just the second team in that span to finish outside of the top-five.

Much of what the Lakers do is predicated on timing, and I’m sure that many of their plays look good on a clipboard. But just like any other machine with a lot of moving parts, these plays fall apart if everything isn’t just right, and the Lakers had difficulty moving on to Plan B and Plan C.

A good offense can cycle through a few different options, but the Lakers rarely got beyond their initial ideas, which were fragile due to their superficial complexity.

Lakers players were often left to their own devices, trying to make something out of nothing within stagnant possessions, dragging efficiency down across the board. The collective “now what” of young players and dribble-happy veterans permeated far too many possessions that ended in difficult shot attempts.

The Lakers were often at their best when they simply spaced the floor. The “give the ball to LeBron and get the hell out of the way” offense is simple, tried and true because it takes advantage of the fact that few players can defend him in one-on-one situations by removing bodies from the paint.

The Houston Rockets play this style of basketball to take advantage of James Harden’s talents, as do many other teams with their stars. This style of play has its limitations, but it’s more effective with LeBron than the read-and-react sets that the Lakers often ran without the requisite understanding of the principles that accompany them.

The Lakers did enjoy some success in their after timeout plays, but these plays were after the Lakers had a moment to talk about it and they were never able to consistently execute in a similar manner within the flow of the game.

All in all, the Lakers had decent initial concepts, but couldn’t get beyond their original plan unless they had time to talk about it beforehand, and couldn’t react to what the defense was doing or make up for their own mistakes.

In the third and final episode of this series on why the Lakers offense failed, we’ll take a look at roster construction. Check back next week, or subscribe to our YouTube channel to get all of our videos when they publish.

The goal of Laker Film Room is to create content that helps you enjoy the game on a deeper level. If you’d like to support that work, you can do so on Patreon or Venmo.

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