Having Mike D’Antoni as a head coach has its blessings and curses, which one of them is having no defensive system whatsoever. That can be overcome with individual and athletic talent, but the old core of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman isn’t likely to be very effective anyway.
And while the Lakers will never admit to be a team that’s tanking to spice up their almost empty roster in the 2014 summer with a high draft pick that might end up to be Jabari Parker or Andrew Wigging, players considered to be good enough to turn the fortunes of a franchise instantly, maybe the first of this kind since LeBron James in 2003.
And yet Lakers fans, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers themselves keep talking about making a run once again next season. A run for what? The NBA title? That’s not even funny. The playoffs? That might happen, but this needs Steve Nash in Suns-form and health (played in only 50 games last season), Pau Gasol without tendinitis (playing in only 49 games last season) and finding himself in more comfortable spots on the court, not to mention Kobe Bryant making his Achilles Tendon tear look like a small bruise on the shin.
Last season, the Lakers were in the bottom 10 of the NBA when it came to defense (allowing 103.4 points per 100 possessions while scoring only 0.3 more) and almost last (27th) in the league when it came to stopping the fast break. This season, it’s not likely to get a lot better. Dwight Howard, even not at his best, was on the team last year. Metta World Peace, even not at his best, was still on the team last year.
The perimeter is going to look more like a block of Swiss cheese than it ever was. The Lakers, under Mike Brown in 2011-2012, were in the top half of the NBA when it came to defense, even with Andrew Bynum, not the greatest defensive center in the league, patrolling the post. There was more effort, and there was more of a general idea as a team on who to play defense. With D’Antoni, it’s not likely that all of a sudden there’s going to be a huge change in philosophy.
And what’s the philosophy? Outscore your opponents, even if you give up 105-110 points each game. The problem is these Lakers depend on a 39 year old point guard to run the floor, or Kobe Bryant, who finds it very hard to think about giving up shots when it happens two-three games in a row. The Lakers looked at their best last season when Bryant gave up shot after shot, giving Nash the chance to work it from beyond the arc and feeding the ball to Howard down low.
The Lakers might have the same effective post presence from Pau Gasol and slightly from Kaman, but it’s hard to believe Bryant, who has a tendency to take more and more on himself when things aren’t going smoothly (and there will be plenty of nights like that next season), which eventually does more harm than good, and is the worst kept secret in the NBA.
And what about defense? With the mid-level exception already used on a center who isn’t known for it and not having a small forward at the moment on the roster (and any of those who will come will be a minimum salary guy, hardly someone who can make an impact for more than 15-20 minutes a night), it seems that for a second straight season, and probably in a worse form, it’s not going to be part of the jargon for a franchise that has seen a blending of bad luck and bad decisions put them in the worst position they’ve been in for the last decade, and probably more.