Following an opening season loss against the LA Clippers, there are already some glaring issues about the roster of the Los Angeles Lakers, the most prescient being the LeBron at point guard experiment.
The Los Angeles Lakers started with their most successful preseason lineup of James, Bradley, Green, Davis, and McGee and things started out strong, as the team pulled ahead 13-2 in the opening minutes of the first quarter. But the offense quickly turned stagnant as the team deferred to post-ups for Anthony Davis, and isolation plays for James, leading to the game quickly flipping in favor of the Clippers.
Now some of this can be attributed to a lack of chemistry for the team, which is true to some degree, but the bigger issue is that without Rajon Rondo, who is currently sidelined with a calf injury, there is a startling lack of point guard play.
You might point to Quinn Cook, or Alex Caruso as the would-be answers to this problem, but those two have never been asked to run an offense in the way a point guard is asked to. Which brings us back to LeBron at point guard, and why it simply is not a viable long term option.
With LeBron entering his age 35 season, it’s unrealistic to ask him to be the driving force on every single offensive possession, as it both mentally and physically draining, even for a player of LeBron’s caliber. Another aspect to this issue is the Anthony Davis question. On Tuesday night against the Clippers, the team ran a staggering amount of post-ups for Davis, in lieu of more pick and roll action, which is where Davis’ strengths can really manifest themselves.
Now look, it’s not an overreaction, and it’s not fair to criticize the team after ONE game, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that LeBron essentially decided to not go with one of the simplest plays in basketball, a play where two veterans in Bron and AD, should have no problem running, regardless of a lack of chemistry.
Look, LeBron is not a traditional point guard. Yes, he’s one of the best passers and playmakers in the league, but only on his terms. LeBron doesn’t organize the offense in general, but rather, he gets everyone in position so that he can make the play himself.
And just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that LeBron is a selfish player, as you generally want the ball in the hands of your best player. But playing LeBron-ball has its drawbacks, the most glaring being that it doesn’t let the other four players on the floor get into the rhythm they need to be successful for the rest of the game.
Another argument as to why the LeBron at point guard experiment can’t work long term is that once he goes to the bench, there isn’t a reliable playmaking guard who can get Davis in the right spots, or set the table offensively. Rondo being out will not be a one-time occurrence, as his age makes him incredibly injury prone, and his lack of a shooting touch makes him a liability even when he’s on the floor.
So where do the Lakers turn to? Once Rondo and Kuzma return, the offense should get back on track as those two provide real, tangible offense that the the team sorely needs. But should Rondo get hurt again, and there’s a very good chance he will, the Lakers will be back to square one with a lack of playmaking.
With a lack of any trade capital, the team will have to look to the buyout market to make a meaningful addition to their point guard rotation. For the time being however, players like Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook just need to give the Lakers more.