6 Reasons Why LeBron’s LA Lakers Are Losing
And why I love the world of NBA basketball right now
1. I love where the NBA is going right now
I’ll tell you why I love the NBA right now, even if the LA Lakers are losing more than they should.
First off, I secretly love and intimately question why LA Laker Malik Monk has the ball in the waning seconds against OKC with Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and Carmelo Anthony watching. I believe it has to do with the Lakers asymmetrical team and personnel composition, and why they are missing the right pieces where they need them.
Second, I love that some of our NBA superstars are struggling with the new flopping rule. I love that the super teams that are supposed to be dominating, well, aren’t.
2. LeBron James and the LA Lakers may have some trouble winning games.
There is a popular video game I play called Dota 2. It’s fun. It’s online. It’s fast. It’s strategic. It resembles basketball in that teams are comprised of five players that must fit and play well together to win. Dota 2 goes like this:
Before each game, there’s a live draft where each player on a team picks a hero and that hero has a specific role. Each hero complements another hero, but if you get heroes that have the same strengths and do the same things, you’re in big trouble.
And this is exactly why the LA Lakers are losing.
Their roles and team composition aren’t symmetrical with one another.
Who’s the knock-down shooter?
Who’s the number one creator/attacker?
What role players are creating optimal spacing?
Who’s playing junkyard defense like PJ Tucker, or Jae Crowder, or Alex Caruso?
Who’s the main creator? Secondary option? Third?
This is why Malik Monk has the ball on the last play — because nobody knows.
3. To be completely transparent, I lose all the time in Dota 2.
One, because I’m old just like the Lakers are.
Two, and this is the main reason: because my other four teammates and I are inexperienced when it comes to picking symmetrical team compositions.
This is what LA has done to itself in the off-season.
Watch the offensive spacing during these Russell Westbrook’s turnovers. Watch where LA players are relative to each other on the court as Westbrook drives. Watch how many OKC players have a foot in the lane. Look at how one defensive player can guard two to three players at once.
Now go watch the Utah Jazz play and then come back to talk to me about perfect offensive spacing.
The Bad Boys Pistons coach Chuck Daly said, “Offense is spacing and spacing is offense.”
Here are some snapshots of bad spacing from the LA Laker versus OKC game.
LA Laker floor spacing problem #1 (and why Russell Westbrook needs to make and take these shots when’s open):
I wrote about Westbrook and how he’ll need to make shots from the outside to keep the spacing optimal for AD and Bron. Right now, this is my biggest concern for the Lake-show, that they have to play what I’ll call non-shooters in the NBA context (like you’ll live with them shooting a contested shot).
LA Laker Floor spacing problem number #2:
Rondo: non-shooter. Russell: non-shooter. DeAndre: non-shooter. Look at them load up with the help of Roby checking AD. You put Kris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, or Alex Caruso/KCP out there and you pay for this kind of help.
LA Laker Floor Spacing Problem #3
The problem is, the LA Lakers don’t even really have the right symmetry or composition of players to create spacing on the court a lot of the time. As you can see here, Westbrook can’t get downhill or have great spacing when he’s initiating pick and rolls at the elbow. Dort is going under this screen at the friggin’ elbow, man!
LA Laker Floor Spacing Problem #4
You can see here that Westbrook is driving and hoping to find AD for a lob, but it gets harder when there are five people moving into the lane. Look at how close the OKC players are on defense. This isn’t good spacing for anyone, including myself.
LA Laker Floor Spacing Problem #5
OKC’s Favors can guard three players and three players can help on AD. Not good. You can see here once again there are five people in the lane.
4. Who built the LA Lakers? LeBron?
I’m not done talking about Dota 2 and how it relates to the LA Lakers asymmetric team composition.
Dota 2 has around a 50 million dollar purse every year at the annual world tournament, has millions of viewers, Dota 2 sportscasters, YouTube channels — the whole ten. In the game itself, you’re maiming the other team with magical heroes and creatures, spells, magical items, gold, creeps, ancients, and the whole thing. If you play Tidehunter or Axe, you’re basically LeBron bashing people in open space.
But Dota 2 Rule #1: You want to create space for your best attackers and players.
To win in Dota 2, you have to pick role players that create space and help your best players and attackers rack up kills and gold. You assist them, support them, and take what they create for you. It’s that simple, just as basketball can be.
5. What will help the Lakers win games?
Make some trades. Get Kendrick Nunn and Trevor Ariza healthy. Get Wayne Ellington healthy. Get some youth, active two-way role players in your lineup.
I’d find a way to time travel. Letting Alex Caruso and KCP go was a huge mistake. These guys are young, tough-nosed, energetic, create space, and are hungry in my opinion.
The Bucks have Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis for a reason: because they can shoot and defend over the regular season and create space for Giannis! You can’t have three shooters on the court at the same time for very long in the NBA.
Let the lane open up so Anthony Davis can have some operating space. So Westbrook can drive and finish at the rim. So LeBron can, well, I’m afraid to say this, but your game may have to change to help this faulty Laker’s roster work.
6. Lakers fans, it’s not the end of the world…
- Get and keep four shooters on the court for a majority of the game that want to play tough-nosed on-the-ball and help-side defense. Go with guys that play hard and take their shots when they’re open. This is how you build chemistry, not by second-guessing yourself.
- Russell has to shoot when he’s open. No more second-guessing kick-outs. No more driving when he should be shooting. No more wild 10 turnover games because he won’t take what the defense gives him. No one knows what he’s going to do because he doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
- Tell Carmelo to use every foul he has while playing more focused, aggressive, and active defense on the ball. He’s been solid on offense, and rotten on defense.
- Go small, use AD and LeBron at the five. Use them as floor spacers and let Russell Westbrook attack the rim.
- Trade for a rim-protecting, role-playing five-man that can pass/defend that creates horizontal floor spacing (hello, Channing Frye).
- Tell Bron-Bron to play the five and use AD at the four? Why not?