Coming off of a gritty win against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers are showing their maturity as a team. There are two identities to the team, one with Bryant on the floor, and one with Bryant, off the floor. Early in the 1st quarter, an aggressive Kobe Bryant, looking to score, stretched to a 34-24 lead after the 1st quarter. When he left the floor in the 3rd quarter, the Laker bench came in, and helped extend the lead with energy, hitting open shots, and providing good ball-movement.
Take a step back. This Laker team is not yet in championship caliber form. Championship teams have an elite playmaker, an elite post presence, perimeter shooting, and elite defensive capabilities to tie in with rebounding. That’s a thorough sweep across the board. It’s difficult to read into the Laker team statistically. They were once the elite 3-point shooting team before Bryant’s return, but the previous five games before the last night, they were shooting 29% behind the arc. What we do know is they’re among the worst in giving up points to opponents, giving up 103.4 points per game. Even worse, they give up the most field goals within 5 feet from the basket, with over 20 field goals a game within that area alone. Most other NBA teams hover around 17 field goals within 5 feet.
That being said, the Lakers need a playmaker, a post threat, a defensive protector, and a perimeter threat with elite defensive abilities. It’s a full list.
Someone needs to set up Bryant and Gasol. Someone needs to protect the paint. Someone needs to help the Lakers defend PGs and cover shooters. Someone needs to relieve Bryant of that duty.
That screams how badly the Lakers need a paint protector, and the rumors have swirled for Tyson Chandler. While Gasol has played well of lately, with clutch plays on either end of the floor, he’s simply not playing to a borderline All-Star caliber talent that he is. The effort isn’t always there. He needs to be started up in the 1st quarter with a few early field goals to get the burn going into the 4th quarter. It helps that Chandler’s contract is up in 2015, where caproom is more readily available for the Lakers to use. Free agency is critical in 2015 and 2016. Big names like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, and Kevin Durant swirl.
This is a team in transition, and I would caution against players that have a few years left and are coming from critical injuries. See Tyson Chandler. He fits the profile for what the Lakers need talent-wise, but the risk is considerable. I would prefer the team set up for large caproom and multiple lottery picks into one swooping year of adding talent. This way the Lakers don’t get stuck hovering around being average and hit their rock bottom, before skyrocketing back to the top with a new roster, new chemistry, and a new identity. I just wish it would come sooner. Tyson Chandler can’t save the team by himself. But, if Kupchak could find a way to get quality talent to address those multiple issues, this is a different story altogether.