The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to open the season, with a flawed game plan as a large part of the problem.
To say the Lakers’ first two games were frustrating to fans would be a wild understatement. In their first game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team they were expected to beat, the Lakers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by squandering a large second half lead.
The team then followed up that performance with a half-hearted effort against the Sacramento Kings, that resulted in a beat-down by another team that is far from elite. While these losses may be symptoms of larger problems, such as the roster itself, there are still adjustments that can be made to improve the Lakers’ chances.
1. More Motion On Offense
The Lakers have a team seemingly built for the pick and roll. With plenty of athletic ball handlers and forwards, the team could even run multiple pick and rolls within a single play. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle especially have the potential to thrive in the pick and roll, and yet the coaching staff appears content to give them the ball in isolation and have them try to create for themselves. This has resulted in both players struggling unnecessarily.
Jordan Clarkson, who flourished in the pick and roll last year, has found himself being forced to create his own space on his mid-range jumper, rather than shooting it off of a screen as he did so effectively previously. The stagnant, isolation-heavy state of the Lakers offense needs to go as soon as possible, and the coaching staff needs to put their young players in a position to succeed.
2. The Bass/Kelly Experiment Should Be Over
Byron Scott has continued his tradition of playing players out of position as this season begins. This year he has chosen to play Ryan Kelly and Brandon Bass together in the front-court, as the power forward and center. In this lineup, Bass typically guards the center, although Kelly has taken those duties at times as well.
This lineup has made the Lakers virtually defenseless at the rim, and has resulted in almost comical sequences in which opposing teams are able to get multiple opportunities directly in front of the rim. The lack of rim protection and rebounding caused by this pairing far outweighs any offensive benefits, especially since Bass has played rather poorly since arriving in Los Angeles.
This situation is made even stranger by the fact that Tarik Black has received very little playing time. While Black is also undersized, he is a natural center who played effective minutes at that spot for the Lakers last year.
His effectiveness as a rim protector is debatable, but it cannot be denied that he is a far superior rebounder to both Bass and Kelly. Whether Byron chooses to play Bass or Kelly at the 4, Black should be playing at the 5.
3. More Coaching Involvement
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For the first two games, there has been very little actual coaching taking place. Substitutions have taken place based on timing, never to create favorable match-ups for the team, and timeouts have been few and far between.
This was particularly true in the game against Minnesota, when the Lakers bench line up was being outplayed by the Timberwolves’ second unit. Scott allowed the entire lead to disappear before calling a timeout or making the necessary substitutions.
The offense has also been allowed to become stagnant for huge portions of the game, with seemingly no intervention from the Lakers bench. If these trends continue, the Lakers will be put at a constant disadvantage to other teams.
While the Lakers have struggled in the first games of the season, these adjustments could make them much more competitive in tonight’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. It may take the Lakers coaching staff a few more games to actually begin to alter the game plan, but it would be wise to begin to make these changes now.
Things aren’t working so far, and the Lakers’ strategy has been obviously flawed. Adjustments clearly need to be made, now it’s up to Byron Scott and his staff to make the right ones before it’s too late.