Nobody thought the 2018-2019 Lakers were a good enough team to take a championship back to Los Angeles. They were, however, expected to be a top three team in the West could maybe make it all the way to the conference finals before jumping in front of the freight train that is the Golden State Warriors. With the addition of Lebron, as well as a few solid role players, they seemed poised to make last years team look like a joke. After a rough start to the season, though, these goals may seem like far more than they can chew, as they are currently residing in twelfth place in their conference, meaning they have to pass four teams just to make the 8th seed in the playoffs. There’ve only been 10 games so far this season, but are we sure that this isn’t more than just a slow start?
Almost every year, LeBron’s teams get off to a slow start, especially when he’s on a new team. Both the Heat and the Cavaliers got off to bad starts when he joined and rejoined them respectively. Both years, though, he still managed to lead them into The Finals. This year, however, feels different. LeBron isn’t young anymore, and these Lakers have nowhere near the supporting classes he had in Miami or Cleveland. There are no super starts to pick up the slack when he isn’t at his best, and his best isn’t enough to carry teams on his back anymore. James’ 2017-2018 season was perhaps the most strenuous of all time, as he had to lead the league in minutes and play at his best every single night to make the Cavs as successful as they were. Although he is one of the greatest althea’s of all time, it would take something magical for him, or anyone, to be able to pull a season like that off again.
The biggest problem for LA is not that LeBron is getting older, but more that he has almost no help. The team has talent, but none of it really seems to meld. They have two pass-first point guards who don’t really play defense and have no jump shot in Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rando. Their starting center Javale McGee has far surpassed expectations, but he is the only solid big on the team, and he is one of the only players the Lakers have who can play defense. It feels like coach Luke Walton just does not have many lineups that fit together, and almost every lineup he has without James is going to struggle.
The Leker’s biggest problem is definitely their defense. While LeBron, McGee, and newcomer Lance Stephenson are all fairly talented on that end of the floor, the rest of the roster is almost a blackhole every time they try to defend. Two of the players that are supposed to lead the team, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, are human turnstiles. I already mentioned that Ball and Rando struggle regularly to stay in front of people. The Lakers may need some new personal if they want to resolve this issue, because there are just too many players who aren’t able to keep up. It is becoming a serious problem, and if we don’t see improvement, it may jeopardize them even making the playoffs while effectively ruining their chances at competing for the Western Conference Championship.
It’s far from time to throw in the towel. Walton is a smart coach, and there is plenty of talent on the roster to see better results. However there are clear cracks in the foundation that need to be fixed. They really need to fix defense, as well as have someone step up to reduce the pressure that LeBron faces on a nightly basis. The season is young, and there is still plenty of time to right the ship, but these still are problems that need to be resolved sooner than later if this team plans to meet its lofty expectations.