The Lakers are currently 17-10, good for 5th place in the Western Conference. After a slow start, things picked up defensively with the addition of Tyson Chandler.
The team overall has gone through certain trends on their own, from the slow start to small winning streaks. Let’s take a look at how the team has been developing.
The First Ten Games
Through the first 10 games of the season, the Lakers went 4-6:
Offensive rating: Ranked #10 at 110.7
Defensive rating: Ranked #23 at 111.5
Assist Percentage: Ranked #23 at 55.3 percent
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: Ranked #21 at 26.6 percent
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: Ranked #25 at 70.1 percent
Pace: Ranked #3 at 106.39
EFG%: Ranked #5 at 54.6 percent
3-Point Percentage: Ranked #17 at 35 percent
Net Rating: Ranked #17 at -1.1
With a healthy Rajon Rondo, the Lakers were off and running with the starting and bench lineups. The net rating of -1.1 shows just how close the Lakers were in some of their losses, largely in due to the rebounding differential. JaVale McGee was already playing at an All-Star level. Five games were decided by 5 points or less. Two of those five games were decided by just a single point. Simply put, they couldn’t get enough offensive rebounds to do what they do best, get out and run. They played a series of playoff teams, such as the Spurs, Nuggets, Blazers, Raptors, and Rockets, which didn’t make things easier. But considering the high expectations for the Lakers, the need for change was urgent, especially with the blowout loss to the Raptors on November 4th.
Indeed, things changed very quickly.
The Lakers Acquired Tyson Chandler
Since his acquisition, the Lakers have tightened up defensively. After four games with Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo was out with a fractured third metacarpal on his right hand. The Lakers changed their playing style altogether. Since Chandler’s arrival, the Lakers are 13-4. The schedule softened very quickly, and the Lakers went on to win 4 of their next 5 games. They finished the rest of the month with a 9-3 record.
Through the month of December, they are currently 4-1. Outside of competition level, what changed?
Offensive rating: Ranked #19 at 107.2 (-3.5)
Defensive rating: Ranked #5 at 103.0 (+8.5)
Assist Percentage: Ranked #23 at 55.6 percent (+0.3 percent)
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: Ranked #15 at 27.9 percent (+1.3 percent)
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: Ranked T-#9 at 74.1 percent (+4 percent)
Pace: Ranked #5 at 102.29 (-4.1)
EFG%: Ranked #14 at 52.4 percent (-2.2 percent)
3-Point Percentage: Ranked #14 at 35.4 percent (+0.4 percent)
Net Rating: Ranked #10 +4.2 (+5.1)
The Lakers clearly slowed their pace and put more emphasis on defense and rebounding. The jump in defensive rebounding, helped limit offensive rebounding opportunities for the opposition. This is huge in winning the possession battle leading to wins. It’s interesting to note that even with Kyle Kuzma’s and Caldwell-Pope’s great 3-point shooting up late, the team overall is practically even. LeBron started cold to start the season, but Lonzo Ball’s streaky-but-good shooting to start the season helped to compensate.
Despite the rankings change in pace being small, the difference of four possessions per game, is huge. Part of the reason can be traced to Rajon Rondo being out with injury and Brandon Ingram picking up some of the slack until he got hurt. Now the Lakers are using different rotations to compensate, usually with either Lonzo Ball or LeBron James in the game at all times. There are a few instances where neither is on the floor, but without any real success.
The Lakers are amidst a playoff race and are on a bit of a hot streak. A 13-4 (.765) record couldn’t have been predicted with Chandler’s arrival, even with the softer schedule. But the goal in the end is for the Lakers to dictate their tempo with pace, get the shooters clicking at the same time, and holding their defensive consistency and effort with relentlessness on the backboard. The difference of +3.4 total rebounds per game since Tyson Chandler’s arrival contributes so much to what the Lakers want to do on both ends of the floor; create one-and-out opportunities and get out and run. There are a lot of dangerous teams that rebound well, and got some wins in October. Now that the Lakers can compete on the backboard, they can be considered dangerous too.
*Special Thanks to nba.com/stats for the Laker team stats and Lakers.com for the wallpaper*