Monday mailbag: Where these Lakers rank in franchise history, and probing for weaknesses

first_imgEditor’s note: This is the Monday, Dec. 9 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Anthony Davis just dropped 50, the Lakers have won 14 of their last 15 games, and on Sunday night, pop singer Lizzo was twerking courtside as the Laker Girls danced to her song.To paraphrase one of Lizzo’s most famous tunes: The Lakers are feeling good as hell.It’s an unabashedly great time for the Purple and Gold, off to a 21-3 start and leading the league in the standings as of Monday morning. They’re four games ahead of their next closest rival, the Clippers, and are one of just two teams (the other being Milwaukee) that have a top-5 rated offense AND defense. Davis also won Western Conference player of the week after averaging 35 points while the Lakers went 4-0 against a slate of opponents that was supposed to test them. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersAll these factors add up to a lot of confidence and certainty about the Lakers, which means not a ton of questions. At the moment, everything just seems to fit, and there’s less hand-wringing in Lakerland than there has been in the last nine years.But that doesn’t mean you don’t have questions. Let’s tackle a few now for our Monday mailbag:@raider_chucky wants to know: “Is this approaching one of the best Lakers teams in quite some time, any parrallels (sic) to Kobe and Shaq or showtime”?Let’s look at how long it took the last few Lakers teams to get to 21 wins.– In 2018-19: Dec. 30– In 2017-18: Feb. 4– In 2016-17: March 24– In 2015-16: Never. OK, so obviously these Lakers are much better than any team in recent memory, but you bring up a valid point: Are they ranking with some of the greats?So far, yes. The last time the Lakers were 21-3 was in the 1985-86 season (when they were 24-3) at the start. These Lakers would have a long way to go to match the best-ever 39-3 start in 1971-72, but we’re talking about very different eras here.Comparing the raw offensive and defensive numbers of these Lakers to Shaq and Kobe or the “Showtime” era doesn’t really make sense, but Basketball Reference allows us to compare them statistically to the rest of the league. A quick look at where these Lakers stack up among their peers compared to great regular-season Lakers teams of the modern era, with the rating and the parenthetical telling how much better or worse that rating is than the league average that year (plus is good for offense, minus is good for defense):– 2019-20 LeBron/AD (LeBrow) Lakers: 112.9 Ortg (plus-4.0), 103.2 Drtg (minus-5.7)– 2008-09 Kobe/Pau Lakers: 112.8 Ortg (plus-4.5), 104.7 Drtg (minus-3.6)– 2001-02 Shaq/Kobe Threepeat Lakers: 109.4 Ortg (plus-4.9), 101.7 Drtg (minus-2.8)– 1999-00 Shaq/Kobe First Title Lakers: 107.3 Ortg (plus-3.2), 98.2 Drtg (minus-5.9)– 1986-87 Showtime Lakers: 115.6 Ortg (plus-7.3), 106.5 Drtg (minus-1.8)– 1985-86 Showtime Lakers: 113.3 Ortg (plus-6.1), 105.8 Drtg (minus-1.4)– 1984-85 Showtime Lakers: 114.1 Ortg (plus-6.2), 107.0 Drtg (minus-0.9)A very rough measure of league dominance can be calculated by combining those two differentials. These Lakers have a 9.7 differential, which is better than all the other teams listed above. That’s kind of incredible.However, as we all know, the Lakers’ schedule gets much more challenging this month, with a five-game Eastern Conference road trip about to begin. There’s no guarantee that LeBron James and Anthony Davis stay healthy for the whole season, at which point this early dominance starts to take a dive. Even if they do, the Lakers might coast for a month or two at the end of the season while resting their stars, which will affect their overall league dominance. No one really knows what can happen.Of course, if this is a historic team, that won’t be measured by how dominant they were in the regular season. Even though the 1985-86 “Showtime” Lakers won more regular-season games than any other Magic Johnson team (65), they didn’t win the title. This is the standard by which every great Lakers team is judged. And arguably no one understands that more than the people in that locker room.“Not really allowing myself to go there,” Coach Frank Vogel said Sunday, when asked about how close his team is brushing to history. “To me, I wake up every day 0-0. I’m asking my team to do the same and, to look only at the game in front of us. All that stuff comes with your jobs, the media can talk about those things, but internally, we’re really just focused on getting better each day.”@GrantHDowling wants to know: “What is the most consistent weakness over their 24-game start that could end up being their achilles heel?”If you really want to ruminate on the Lakers’ three losses in 24 games, you can go down a bit of a rabbit hole. What do those losses have in common?In my opinion, there’s a clear blueprint here: The Clippers, Raptors and Mavericks all have a playmaking forward who can also score in volume. The Lakers have a real problem defending that consistently.That’s no fluke, but rather how the roster was constructed. The Lakers have a lot of great guard defenders. They have a lot of shot-blocking big men. But that in-between wing position gets very, very precarious after LeBron, and that’s arguably the most important position in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Luka Doncic are all MVP candidates who have had great games against the Lakers. Doncic nearly beat them the first time they played. Yes, the Lakers can turn it on defensively, but as the Mavericks showed in their second-half adjustments last game, there’s more in their bag.It’s unclear how or if the Lakers can address this. The most smoke of any Lakers-related acquisition is in Memphis, where fans pine to find a way to add Andre Iguodala to the roster. The 35-year-old wing defending specialist who once hounded James on his way to the 2015 Finals MVP is cooling his heels, but all indications have been that it’s unlikely Memphis buys out his $17.2 million contract. The Grizzlies want an asset back, and with a number of contenders with more assets getting more desperate, it makes sense that Memphis could find a suitor for a trade.Defending wings who can keep up with the league’s stars are just hard to come by, and the Lakers don’t have that much in the cupboard for a deal without removing essential members a rotation that’s started out so well.It’s hard to pick bones with a 21-3 start, but if you’re looking for flaws, that’s where I’d start.— Kyle GoonEditor’s note: Thanks for reading the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Flex on those linksThe Avery Challege – How Frank Vogel kicked some life into his defense after they fell off with a key injury.For he’s a jolly good Melo – More Lakers than just LeBron were glad to see Carmelo Anthony back in the NBA.Half a buck – Anthony Davis hits a high-water mark as a Laker with 50 against the Timberwolves.Going for five – Jim Alexander speculates on the possibility that LeBron could get another MVP award.Overachievers and underachievers – Mark Heisler gets an eye on who is exceeding or failing to meet expectations.ADPOY – Could A.D. be the best defensive player in the NBA?This is for the haters – In the last newsletter, Mirjam took on the mantle of Old Takes Exposed.Fan of the year – I just enjoyed this boy on the big screen last night.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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