Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers center Tyson Chandler (5), forward LeBron James (23) and forward Brandon Ingram (14).
- The Lakers haven't played 25 games yet, but have made a season's worth of changes on both ends of the floor.
- Matt Moore analyzes how the Lakers are evolving and what they could look like down the road.
We’re a quarter of the way through the season and the Los Angeles Lakers are at once a complete mystery and very much the team we thought they were. There is no cohesive mission statement to be made about this team.
They are like mist, you can see them, but you can’t grasp them to determine their exact makeup. I feel comfortable saying the following:
- They are a good team, in that they are above average. Both their win-loss record and net rating reflect this.
- They are a flawed team, and when they look bad, they look truly bad.
- They have improved in areas where they started terribly and worsened where they started off well.
- They have talent, but maybe not the most that their biggest fans would claim they do, which is normal. The issue is about the future and trying to determine what that looks like with their young pieces.
- The veteran additions have, for the most part, been pretty good.
- They may have serious issues with playoff matchups, but we are also a long way from that.
With that, let’s try and make sense of a fascinating and bizarre Lakers team.
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest NBA conversation delivered into your inbox each day.
LAKERS WIN PROFILE
- Overall: 14-9
- Vs. teams under .500: 8-4
- Home record: 9-4
- Division record: 3-0
- Best wins: Nuggets, Jazz, Blazers (2X), Pacers
- Worst losses: Magic (2X), Spurs
Those factors above are the ones I look the most at for trying to determine a playoff team. You win your home games, win your division games, win your games vs. bad teams, and you’re going to make the playoffs.
The Lakers check off most of these boxes. Their most concerning number is their record vs. teams under .500, which speaks to their inconsistent nature.
But the teams they’ve lost to have also been teams like the Spurs and Rockets who should wind up over .500 by the end of the season, though the Magic may cancel that out.
The trick is you want single-digit losses to teams under .500. Since 2003, only nine teams have lost fewer than 10 games to teams under .500 and missed the playoffs. It’s a tried and true recipe.
Entering Wednesday’s games, the Lakers are two games back of the No. 1 spot in the Western conference after their horrendous start. While they are tied for the most home losses among the Western Conference’s top-eight, they’re still well above .500. That division mark also matters, especially if they wind up competing with the Clippers (and dare we say, Kings?) for seeding.
Their quality wins, particularly the two wins vs. the Trail Blazers after a disappointing opener, are promising. Their bad losses aren’t really that bad; the Magic present a matchup issue and are a tough team if you let them hang.
All in all, I have to tell you, the Lakers are probably ahead of where we’d think they’d be at this point, given how tough their early season schedule was. They rebounded by not only winning games they should but doing so at a high level.
Tale of two teams
Here’s the 10,000-foot view of the Lakers.