It is, at least in some ways, bizarre to consider rampant optimism when the Los Angeles Lakers post an 8-10 record over an 18-game sample. For what is arguably the NBA’s flagship franchise, “success” does not usually come with a sub-.500 mark but, for this season, Luke Walton’s team engineered real buzz with overall competence through the first month of the season.
Much of that relative effectiveness stemmed from a top-five defense in the league, as the Lakers allowed only 100.3 points per 100 possessions in the time between the season opener and Nov. 21. Since then, however, the wheels have come off for Los Angeles and, non-coincidentally, the damage has been done on the defensive end. Over the course of a five-game losing streak that seemingly restored order in the standings, the Lakers have posted a bottom-five defensive rating (112.4) which, in all frankness, is closer to the baseline that many assumed for the 2017-2018 season.
Make no mistake, there are actual signs of positive growth for the Lakers, with Brandon Ingram taking great leaps since an uneven (to be kind) rookie season and the defense still improving from a league-worst mark a season ago. Still, the Lonzo Ball experience hasn’t been quite as advertised from a shooting perspective and, even if he is quite effective in other ways, the overall talent level on this Lakers roster isn’t quite what is needed to seriously threaten for the playoffs, or even a .500 record, in the Western Conference.
This particular version of the Lakers is far more interesting than that of the previous couple of seasons and the young talent is worthy of attention in many ways. Still, the overarching notion that Los Angeles could surprise to the point of borderline playoff contention is evaporating and, in the end, this is still a group that is a year (or two) away… as we expected all along.
Where do the Lakers land in this week’s NBA power rankings? Let’s find out together.