The Lakers dropped three of four games this week and now find themselves in 12th place in the Western Conference. Laker fans have been slowly forced to admit the fact that the Lakers are just not a very good team without Kobe.
That said, the fact that Kobe is out gives the Lakers at least a glimmer of hope. We still can’t evaluate this team completely without Bryant in the lineup and things can change rapidly assuming the Mamba returns healthy and plays at a high level. But until then, the Lakers’ struggles may continue.
One of the most glaring stats so far this season is the Lakers horrendous free throw percentage. The team isn’t shooting as many free throws this year compared to last, but they’re shooting just 69.7 percent from the charity stripe – the third worst figure in the league. Apparently losing Dwight Howard hasn’t made a difference for the Lakers in that department. Last season, they shot 69.2 percent from the free throw line.
Making a couple of more free throws per game could really help in tight games like the one the Lakers lost on Friday night against Memphis.
Shot selection has also been a major problem for the Lakers. The team continues to take inefficient shots. The league wide probability to make a mid range jumper is far less than a shot from the paint and the value of both shots is two points. It’s an obvious concept – pound it in and take high percentage shots. But the Lakers have taken 29 percent of their shots from the mid-range, up five percent from last season. They have taken the second most shots in the NBA from that zone. To add salt to the wounds, the Lakers aren’t exactly great from the mid range either only making 33 percent of their shots from that zone.
In terms of individual performance, Pau Gasol continues to have an awful plus-minus at -8.4. Steve Nash is not far behind at -6. It’s surprising that the Lakers have even won four games thus far with Nash hurt and Gasol playing poorly. With Gasol and Nash playing poorly, the Lakers have desperately needed someone to step up and take over the team. Unfortunately, nobody has.
No Laker has even come close to scoring 30 points in a game. The highest individual point total by a Laker this season has been just 25 points. With players being so inconsistent, it’s become extremely difficult for Mike D’Antoni to have a set rotation. He’s had to rely on who’s hot and who’s not.
For instance, this week, we saw a lot of Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill. Meeks had an offensive rating of 108.9 and a true shooting percentage of 71.8 percent. Hill, on the other hand, has 2.3 blocks and 10.3 rebounds in the last three games. That’s great, but neither Meeks or Hill have shown they can sustain solid play over a long period of time. After all, Jordan Farmar had a solid stretch last week but only shot 20 percent this week. Would anyone really be surprised if Meeks and Hill fall in a swoon next week?
Gasol and Nash are the only ones capable of consistently playing well on this team. However, with Nash ailing and Gasol consistently playing awful, Laker fans can expect to see more L’s than W’s.
Fortunately for them, Kobe partook in his first practice since his injury today. The light at the end of the tunnel is near. The Lakers also only have two games this week so they can get some much needed rest after playing eight games over a stretch of two weeks. After a tilt with the Pistons tomorrow, the Lakers have four days off before a huge showdown against Golden State at home.