Talent vs. System: What’s Killing the Lakers Most?


Byron Scott was given the impossible task of “winning” by losing this season. The Lakers roster was put together full of expiring contracts to lose now, so they can win later. But what has been the biggest culprit for their terrible record: lack of talent or the prehistoric system they run?

Even without seasonending injuries to Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Xavier Henry, Steve Nash, Ronnie Price and possibly Nick Young, the Lakers talent level resembled the likes of a D-League team more than an NBA one. Their starting lineups have been more comical as the season has gone on and their only chance of victory is if their bench outplays the opponent’s reserves.

As for the Princeton Offense, it’s based upon player movement, back-door cuts, low-post scoring threats and a slower pace of play. The system was created by Pete Carril and has been used successfully in the NBA by Rick Adelman, Eddie Jordan and more recently Byron Scott. There are two problems the Lakers face: they don’t have the skill set nor the discipline to run it.

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College offenses usually don’t translate well into the NBA, because the college game is centered around running a system (even more so now with players leaving after one year) versus the NBA which features isolation plays and mismatches. The San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks run system-based offenses and do very well, while teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder put the ball in their best player’s hands and let them go to work. In the playoffs, talent trumps system, but the Lakers aren’t even in that conversation right now.

This season the Lakers are suffering from both: lack of talent and faulty system. It doesn’t matter what type of defensive schemes are run because they don’t have the talent or discipline to make stops. On the contrary, the Princeton Offense requires high athleticism and basketball IQ to execute it and the Lakers possess neither. Take for instance Jeremy Lin‘s recent improved play. Lin is less restricted to run plays so he’s thriving in a pick and roll scenarios. Basically Lin ditched the Princeton and has done much better since.

Talent versus System is similar to the chicken or the egg argument. The system needs to be set in order to recruit the right type of players to run it, but without talent it doesn’t matter what kind of system you run because you can’t win consistently. The Lakers chose not to acquire more talent this season, but Byron Scott should have chosen a better system to maximize the Lakers current talent level.

Next: Byron Scott: The Tank Commander the Los Angeles Lakers Need