LOS ANGELES - With an offensive rating of 112, the eighth-lowest in the league, it's not exactly breaking news that the Lakers aren't a good offensive team.
However, Thursday's matchup against the Phoenix Suns further exemplified this with Los Angeles unable to ever get any flow on the offensive side of the ball. Instead, their possessions repeated the pattern of shots late in the shot clock and unforced turnovers — 17 in total — while Phoenix also outrebounded the hosts 46-37, limiting their second-chance opportunities.
Following the defeat, a dejected Darvin Ham discussed the uphill battle Thursday's matchup presented.
"It was just a tough night, one of those nights," Ham said. "We started out extremely flat, seemed to be running in mud there. Little loose with the ball, I just mentioned the turnovers. It was tough, a tough night. Felt like we were trying to make the right play (but) were a step short, a second too late. It's just one of those nights. It's a tough, tough night."
All season long, the Lakers have relied too much on Anthony Davis and LeBron James to take the mediocrity around them and drag it to greatness. Thursday showed what happens when they aren't superstars; this team will get the doors blown off.
For the third game in a row, James was mediocre, not just by his standards but by any All-Star player expectation. He ended the night with 10 points, just enough to keep his double-digit point streak alive. But he didn't accomplish much else, going 3-11 from the field and resting in the fourth with the game already out of reach.
If anyone deserves a moment of grace due to their recent play, it's Davis and against Phoenix, he was quiet, scoring just 13 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.
Asking Davis and James to drop a combined 60 or more to have a puncher's chance against the league's best is not only unfair, it's not a winning formula, much less a path toward a title.
Lakers are 5-11 since the IST Final. Feels like a team that needs to make a trade. The offense lacks so much juice. Just so unimaginative.— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) January 12, 2024
On the other hand, Phoenix has three scoring options; all are ball handlers who understand how to distribute, run the offense and play off of one another.
Kevin Durant was an efficient 7-12 from the field for his 18 points, which was fine because it was more of a Bradley Beal night. He ended the game with 37 points and shot 8-10 from three. His other guard mate Booker also ate, picking on Max Christie at every opportunity and dropping 31 points himself.
The Lakers don't have guards on this team who can ever produce like Booker and Beal did and that's a problem. You can't have a 39-year-old James as your best ball-handler in the starting five and win most of your games.
Compare that to other top teams in the West like Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers, and you see plenty of guards who can score in bunches and take over a game.
Who can score 25 points on this team not named James or Davis?
Even if a trade is made, it's unlikely to happen soon. The trade deadline isn't until Feb. 8 and if last season was any indicator, significant moves won't happen until we are days or hours from the deadline.
In the meantime, Ham will have to get creative offensively and make lemons out of lemonade to keep this team afloat.
D'Angelo Russell, who has experience being involved in trade talks and was one of the solutions for the Lakers last season, offered some perspective on the situation during his postgame presser.
"It's a lot we could talk about right now as far as what could be fixed," Russell said. "Short-term, we'll figure it out and try to be better next game. I think there's a lot of holes in our system right now. You use the regular season to figure those things out. The ups and downs, the digression, the setbacks, injuries, all these things keep playing a part in our success."
"So, just next guy mentality, having a positive energy coming into work, practice, things like that. And get better from game to game, I think that's where we start. Look at this game and get better in ways we haven't had to look at throughout the season. Right now is the time to figure it out and do something about it, whatever that may be."
It may still be January, but it's Groundhog's Day in Los Angeles.
Despite running things back and preaching continuity, this team finds itself in the same spot as last year, needing a trade to improve the team so it can go on a winning streak to make the playoffs and contend in the West.
The question is, can Rob Pelinka pull another rabbit out of his hat and pull off a trade to put this team back on track? It seems unreasonable to ask him to do it again, but fair or unfair, that’s where things are nearly halfway through the season.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.