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It Shouldn't Matter that Kobe's Back in Uniform

Despite the return of their celebrated leader, the Lakers still lack bite.

Ronald Martinez

After snapping an 8 year postseason appearance streak last season, the Lakers had hoped to start a new one in 2014-15. However, a 1-5 start appears they might be headed down an even deeper abyss.

An Underwhelming Roster

Kobe Bryant is back, and athletically, he looks quite good. He is averaging 26.5 points with over 5 rebounds a game, and the steals have been there. Nonetheless, the efficiency is on pace to be the worst of his career. He is probably still shaking off the rust of not playing for close to a year and a half, but the bigger problem is his surrounding cast -- they're collectively awful.

Outside of Jordan Hill, fellow starters Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer are, to varying degrees, below average. With Steve Nash and Nick Young sidelined, the bench is weaker than it should have been. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise a competitor like Kobe is averaging 23.7 shots a game despite the sub-40 FG%. Although he's always enjoyed his share of shots, it says a lot that he's averaging more turnovers than assists for the first time in his career.

Taking Care of Business

Earlier today, Chris mentioned the importance of taking care of business for all Western Conference playoff-hopeful teams:

The major difference between playoff teams from the West and the non-playoff teams were how they performed against teams that were under .500. All of the playoff teams, except the Rockets, won at least 75% of their games versus sub .500 teams.

The Lakers currently have the worst rated defense, a 114.6 DRtg. For reference, the Jazz had the worst DRtg last season at 109.1. Los Angeles is allowing a league-worst 54.7 eFG%. They are 26th in defensive rebounding. Lastly, they put opponents on the line more than anyone else.

3 Keys to Victory

  1. Limit the fouls. Despite all of their awful defensive statistics, the Lakers have a competent offense. Their most effective weapon is getting to the line. They are 4th in the league in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. Naturally, Kobe is the ring leader but the Pelicans can't let their secondary players make a living at the stripe like Hill and Lin.
  2. Pound the glass. As mentioned earlier, the Lakers are a poor defensive rebounding team. On the other hand, the Pelicans lead the league with 14.2 offensive rebounds a game. Makes for a match made in heaven. If our shots are not falling, the Pelicans should seek get as many second chance points as possible.
  3. Avoid all mid-range shots. The Lakers have the 4th worst opponent three point rate and they foul opponents more than anyone save the Denver Nuggets. Considering the Pelicans penchant for points in the paint and the Lakers willingness to provide opportunities from the other desirable parts of the floor, the Pelicans have no need to settle for the least valuable shots in basketball.

Don't forget to stop by the Silver Screen and Roll. You might come across the latest scheme on luring Anthony Davis to Los Angeles. :)