The Lakers had their ups and downs this week, showing signs of promise but then following it up with several reality checks that tell us that this team still has a long way to go to even be considered a contender.
The Lakers are 3-4 – the same mark as last year after seven games – and two of those three wins have come against championship contenders. One of those was against Houston on the road in what will probably be remembered as one of the most dramatic victories of the season. Steve Blake’s game winning three pointer showed that the Lakers can still have a clutch factor without the Mamba.
One can even make an argument that had Kobe Bryant been healthy, they could’ve possibly beaten San Antonio at home.
Also, Jordan Farmar and Chris Kaman have proven to be solid acquisitions for the Lakers. Farmar’s On/Off Efficiency numbers are ridiculous.
The Lakers are better both offensively and defensively when Jordan’s on the court.
Meanwhile, Kaman is showing that he can be a defensive stalwart.
The Lakers offense doesn’t change much when Kaman leaves the floor, but their defensive efficiency rating balloons skyward when he sits. Kaman plays almost a dozen minutes less than Pau Gasol per game but he’s averaging 1.1 blocks per game and has the best defensive efficiency rating on the team. Who knew?
That’s the good news…here’s the bad news:
Pau Gasol might be the worst player on the Lakers right now.
The Lakers are better both offensively and defensively when Gasol is not on the court. Their offensive efficiency rating is almost 13 points higher and their defensive efficiency rating is 14 points fewer when he’s not playing. Combine those two figures and Gasol adversely impacts the Lakers by over 27 points per 48 minutes.
Even if this total is inflated by the two blowouts the Lakers have suffered, one can’t deny the fact that Gasol has been off his game this year. Sure, he’s getting rebounds. But he also plays a lot of minutes. Jordan Hill has a higher Per 48 minute rebound average than Gasol. Also, Pau’s 35.2% shooting percentage doesn’t do him any favors. (Ahem…please stop shooting threes when your team is down by 16.)
Steve Blake has been atrocious offensively, too.
This may be because he’s not playing his true position of point guard especially when Steve Nash is on, but the Lakers are 20 points better with him off the court offensively per 48 minutes. That’s pretty hideous. That said, Blake has been impactful on defense and making a game winning three pointer at Houston gives him a pass.
With all of that said, the Lakers are still finding ways to be in games and they’re making Laker fans say, “Well, if Kobe were playing we would’ve won.” The truth is, the team can’t be truly evaluated until the Mamba returns. They’re fighting hard, though, and that’s all they are asked to do. Their hard work even led to them being ahead of the Clippers in the standings for a night. Hey, can’t complain.
The Lakers will play four games again this week. Unlike last week, though, three of them will be at Staples Center. They won’t be easy games, though, as the Wolves are 4-2 and the Pelicans showed on Friday that they’re not an easy out. That said, they’re not against championship contenders.
The Lakers will then fly to Denver to take on the Nuggets, who are struggling. However, the Pepsi Center has always been a house of horrors for the Lakers. The Purple and Gold will wrap up the week with a home affair against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers have the potential to head into that game with a 6-4 record, but it starts with Gasol. Will he continue to be a shell of himself this week, or will he finally rise up and take over the team like he’s supposed to do with Kobe out?