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Breaking down the Lakers’ strengths and weaknesses in the NBA restart

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The Lakers are a great team, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also have a couple flaws to watch out for, too.

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2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have been a really good basketball team this season. There are a handful of stats that reflect that, but arguably none more than their 49-14 record, which is the best record in the Western Conference and second-best record in the NBA.

However, even the best teams have weaknesses, and the Lakers are no exception. Let’s take a quick look back at a few areas they struggled in before the season was suspended, as well as where they thrived.

Strengths

  • Transition offense: Last season, the Lakers tried to use the young legs on their roster to play with pace, but to no avail. This season, they’re one of the best transition teams in the NBA, adding four transition points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. The only team that has added more transition points per 100 possessions is the Toronto Raptors (4.1). That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering who’s quarterbacking those possessions, but as we saw last season, when they ranked 16th among teams in transition offense, it’s not a given.
  • Half court defense: Of the eight players the Lakers acquired in the offseason, four had made All-Defensive teams at least once in their career, including three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, and three-time block champion Anthony Davis. Thus far, the team’s defensive pedigree has paid off for them, particularly in the half court, where they’ve allowed the third-fewest points per 100 possessions (90.3). While their rim protection obviously has a lot to do with that, they’ve also held teams to 34.7% shooting from behind the arc, which is the second-lowest percentage behind the Milwaukee Bucks (34.3%).
  • Chemistry: There’s no real way to quantify chemistry, but when you compare the success of this year’s Lakers team in that respect to other contenders that were built overnight — let alone ones led by a star as polarizing as LeBron James — what they’ve been able to accomplish has been impressive. Everyone on the team, from the top down, deserves some recognition for that.

Weaknesses

  • Half court offense: As great as the Lakers have been in transition this season, they’ve been a below average team in the half court. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers have added 95.5 points per 100 possessions in the half court, which puts them 15th among all teams. A lot of that has to do with the team’s over reliance on James’ playmaking in the half court, but it also has to do with the fact that the Lakers aren’t shooting the 3-ball at a particularly high clip. When the shooters aren’t hitting their shots, the ball stops moving, and it gets thrown to Anthony Davis in the post, where he’s averaged 0.92 points per 100 possessions. They need to find ways to get better here in Orlando.
  • 3-point shooting: In spite of the Lakers’ effort to bring in career 3-point marksmen in the offseason, they’re ranked 20th among all teams in 3-point percentage (35.8%) and 24th in frequency (23.2%), according to Cleaning the Glass, which filters out heaves. The team has a handful of reliable 3-point shooters, even if they’re not as reliable as they expected them to be (looking at you, Danny Green) but, their non-shooters like Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma have cratered their overall efficiency. Hopefully the additions of J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters help to rectify that.
  • Free-throw shooting: The Lakers are ranked 28th out of 30 teams in free-throw percentage (73%). Only the New Orleans Pelicans (72.9%) and New York Knicks (69.4%) are worse. When you’re that bad from the charity stripe, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but it starts with LeBron James. Of the players that have attempted at least 300 free throws this season, James has the fifth-worst free-throw percentage. Then, of course, there’s Dwight Howard, who’s shooting 49.4% from the charity stripe. It’s unclear if either of those numbers will tick up in the restart, but it would help.

And there you have it. Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree, or if there is anything bigger that we missed in either category. Thankfully, there is only one more day until we can stop projecting this stuff and get our first look at this team on the court again for real.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.