We hear about the Los Angeles Lakers problems 24/7. Honestly, the list presented is exhausting as well as inaccurate. I will attempt to distill the issues and focus on their legitimate problem, their turnover deficit.
First, a few facts you may not have heard about the 2013 Lakers:
- they have shot better than their opponents
- they have made more free throws than their opponents
- they have outrebounded their opponents
- they have outscored their opponents
Based on their point differential and strength of schedule LA is still one of the 10 best teams in the NBA. So why all the fuss about their struggles? Part of it is justified but we haven’t seen much written about their one real problem.
The Lakers are losing the possession battle. Very simply LA commits two more turnovers/game than their opponents. Their defense ranks second-to-last in the NBA in forcing turnovers. Their shooting guards & centers are committing 2.5 more turnovers/game than their counterparts (82games.com breaks it down by position).
LA is at about the league average at protecting the rim and making opponents miss two point shots but because of the turnover differential, Mike D’Antoni’s team is letting the opposition shoot five more shots/game than the Lakers. You need to play near perfect ball to win games with this big of a deficit in FGAs. Fortunately LA is pretty darn good in every other facet of the game.
In defense of their 2-guards and centers, Dwight Howard is dramatically better than the average big man in all categories except turnovers. Kobe Bryant has also been much better than opposing 2’s & 3’s in every facet of the games except turns & steals. Even including the turnovers in the numbers Kobe’s PER as a SG this year is 25. Lakers opposing 2-guards are posting just a 12 PER against Kobe.
Metta World Peace is the only Laker in the top 20 in the NBA in Steal Pct (ranks 18th). As Metta passes the likes of Larry Bird and Eddie Jones on the all-time steals list he continues to do a very good job at holding on to the basketball. MWP alone has compiled 10 more steals than turnovers this year. Bryant and Howard have combined for 166 more turnovers than steals in 2013.
The Lakers in-town rival, the Clippers are a model ball control team. LAC forces 4 more turnovers/100 possessions than the former champions. Having Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe guarding opposing point’s is extremely beneficial for the Clippers. It turns out it’s more than just their guards, the up-and-coming LA team is forcing more turnovers by their opponents than do the Lakers at all 5 positions. This is a dramatic difference between the two teams.
The Los Angeles Lakers are very good on offense (7th in the league) and their super-star studded 5-man unit is on pace to win 54 games. These 5 veterans outscored their counterparts on average 117-109. So despite everything you hear the Lakers have just one on-court problem.
Mike D’Antoni needs to preach aggressive on-ball defense by his wings while Dwight needs to play the role of All-Pro free safety and use his long arms to interfere with passing lanes. It may not be easy but the Lakers, as currently constructed, could still be a great team.
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