Lakers' solution for success is slapping Darvin Ham right in the face

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers do not have the record they were expecting to have at this point in the season but at least the arrow is pointing up. The ninth-seeded Lakers are 36-30 on the season but have two big wins in a row and have beaten some tough competition as of late.

It is safe to say that the Lakers are finally starting to figure things out and the hope is that this positive trend continues as the regular season winds down. Los Angeles has a lot of work to do not just to go on a deep playoff run, but to get there in the first place.

Thankfully, there seems to be a fairly simple solution that can lead the Lakers to the promised land. As complex as the game of basketball is, there is a rather obvious trend that directly correlates with the success of the team: how much Taurean Prince plays.

Playing Taurean Prince less is the Lakers' key to success

While the sample size is much smaller with Prince playing 24:30 minutes or fewer, it is quite remarkable just how much better the purple and gold are when he is not logging a lot of playing time. Los Angeles, quite literally, goes from a team well under .500 with Prince to a team that is almost unbeatable when Prince hardly plays.

It is not like the Lakers are beating up on only bad teams when Prince isn't getting playing time, either. The Lakers have beaten the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors when Prince plays less than 24 and a half minutes.

The team's only two losses when Prince's playing time is slashed are against the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings, both of which are playoff teams. If we extend this to include games where Prince did not play, the Lakers are 20-3 in games without Prince.

Darvin Ham has had this obsession with Prince dating back to the start of the season. It likely stems from the fact that Ham coached Prince before, but that does not change the fact that he was inherently hurting the team just to play one of his favorite guys.

These are the kind of trends that Ham should be noticing, especially when the numbers are so obviously bad for Prince and the Lakers when he plays. The Lakers' net rating is 7.2 points worse when Prince is on the court versus when he is off the court this season.

To put that into perspective, a 7.2-point net rating difference is nearly identical to the difference between the fourth-ranked team in the league in net rating (New Orleans Pelicans, +5.3) and the 22nd-ranked team (Chicago Bulls, -2.0).

With Prince on the floor, the Lakers have a net rating of -3.6, which would rank 24th in the league. Without Prince, the net rating jumps to +3.6, which would rank 10th.

The Lakers have been far from perfect this season but the fact that Prince is the difference between being a top-10 team and a bottom-10 team is the most damning evidence possible against the veteran role player — and his head coach, for that matter.

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