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LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers Suck and I Love It

The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling and I’m here for it. LeBron James isn’t helping much either.

This is gonna be a short post. Basically, as a person who grew up with the Seattle Supersonics, it is always nice to watch the Los Angeles Lakers struggle. Now, I haven’t had my team to root for in quite some time, but my disdain for the Lakers continues until the day I die.

Super teams have been the “soup du jour” for at least a decade. Often, it works out. Check the Golden State Warriors. Check the Lakers from a long while ago. Basically, however, as good as LeBron James is, he can’t really will his way to a championship these days the way Michael Jordan could in the 90’s. Granted, Jordan is just a few thousand levels better than anybody else, ever, so that is a mitigating factor. Anyways, the Lakers tried to go the way of another three-star, champ-level team this year with LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. So far, it doesn’t look like it’s working out. Granted, again, there are injury issues with LeBron missing a decent stretch with an abdominal strain.

Westbrook’s struggles.

First of all, if all of the superstars are on the floor, the initial problem is that you have two super ball-heavy guys trying to share the floor/ball in LeBron and Russ. They both have usage rates near 30%, which, well, indicates being ball-heavy. Hard to share if you’re the guy that always wants the ball. Without King James (including one game back against the Detroit Pistons), the Lakers are 4-5. In that span, their margin of victory is -7.0. Of all they teams under .500 to beat them in that span, they’ve lost to the Thunder, Blazers, Wolves, and Celtics.

Now, Westbrook – since I want to pick on him – is averaging a near-career-high in turnovers per game at 4.9. Not great for your starting point guard. Isn’t that dude supposed to take care of the ball?? He’s shooting his 6th-lowest from the floor of his career at 42.9% and fourth-lowest from three at 28.8%. Not since his age-26 season, has he shot worse all around at a 46.6% eFG% clip. A “de-maturing” from the field is not what you need from the guy you dumped half of your chips on in the offseason. And we’ve all witnessed some serious gaffs with him “handling” the ball.

What about the King?

Now, granted, LeBron missed 8 games with an abdominal strain, but he doesn’t look any more “in-sync” with the rest of this team. With LeBron, I don’t think it as much on-court, performance-based issues, as far as numbers go, but this team is clearly not clicking together. For a team “supposedly” full of guys to pass to, LeBron is having his third-worst season by assist percentage (a metric identifying how many field goals a teammate made that the player assisted on) at 30.0%. Just two seasons ago, he was at a career-high of 49.1%. Again, ball-heavy, but not sharing the ball as much. In a way, it seems as though having Westbrook with him makes him less of a passer. Maybe they are confused as to who is supposed to pass and when. Additionally, he is contributing his worst WS/48 (Win Shares per 48 minutes) at .113 since his rookie season. If that doesn’t spell ball-first superstar in decline, then I don’t know what does.

As a team. Team?

A team that has struggled to gel shows up in the stat sheets. Sorry, but it’s true. They are outside the top ten in field goal percentage, three point percentage, rebounding, and defensive rebounding. Even worse, they’re in the bottom third of the league in free throw percentage and turnovers. None of these spell success.

Now, I didn’t just come here to hate on the Lakers (maybe I did). What can help them move forward? What can help them pursue a playoff spot? As it stands right now, they’re, luckily, in the 9th spot in the Western Conference. That means they’d at least be able to budge their way into the play-in faction of the playoffs. Still doesn’t bode well for a team with one of the main faces of the league trying to win another Larry O’Brien trophy.

One or the other of LeBron and Russ are going to have to decide that they don’t need the ball in their hands all the time. One of them has to be the actual engine of the offense, primarily. My educated guess would be that that is LeBron, since this is his team. At least when he’s on the floor and not spiking Isaiah Stewart in the face. Westbrook is a few years younger and is still a better slasher, all things considered. So, put the ball in Bron’s hands and have him run the offense. Let Russ run through pick-and-rolls with AD and get to the hoop, while also rebounding. I hate to say this (as a staunch Laker-hater), but this could also save some wear-and-tear on LeBron.

Keep AD at center!

I honestly never understood taking a dude as big and skilled as Anthony Davis and sticking him at power forward when you don’t start an actual center. Maybe I’m stuck in the late-80’s or early-90’s? Anyways, he’s having a fantastic season starting at the 5. He’s on pace for 11.27 Win Shares, which would be his best full season since his 2017-18 campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans (13.7). I feel that he is directly benefitting from playing center. He’s closer to the basket, most of the time, and can get high-percentage shots. In fact, a significant portion of his shots are coming at-or-near the rim and he’s shooting 67.6% there, which is well  below league average (57.5%). Relying less on the three – a very low 10.4% of his shots, compared to past years – he is absolutely nailing two-pointers to the tune of 76.8% from three feet or closer. That spells efficiency to me.

Bound to meddle or muddle.

All that said, the Lakers look like they have plenty of options in place. Particularly if you include Talen Horton-Tucker. Granted, the fact that they are 9-10 after losing to the New York Knicks tonight, I can see some moves coming down the pipe. LeBron, himself, might be in the market to move some folks, if he actually has that much sway. Which he might!. I honestly don’t think they need to make any moves, just yet. Or, maybe it’s that some of the moves they made in the offseason created some of these issues that are making them a sub-par team? If I’m the Washington Wizards, I’m really happy right now.

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