Lonzo is definitely a work in progress. We see flashes in his shooting and defense to go along with his other-worldly passing and vision. I love the fact that he plays such a simple, no-frills approach to running the offense. I like his attempt to set off-ball screens, but he is far too passive in the half-court offense. Eventually, he will have to get strong enough and have enough stamina to run off-ball actions like back cuts, or posting up smaller point guards. All of that will take time, but eventually bare fruit later this season, or certainly by next season.
For me, the biggest thing about the team so far has been the team’s and especially Randle’s improvement on defense. This stat is mind boggling:
The Lakers are #4 in the league in points per shot. Because they play so much faster than other teams, points allowed per shot or per possession is a much more revealing metric than average points allowed per game.
Having said that, the last four games, the Lakers have only allowed 98 points per game, which would put them at #5 in the league.
Luke’s focus on defense is key to the team winning in the long run, because it is about effort, teamwork, and building a new culture. And, it is sustainable.
They outplayed Toronto most of the game with their defense, but couldn’t put away the game because of turnovers. Without defense, the schedule loss against Utah, (3rd game in four days, second game of a home and road back-to-back) would have turned into a complete rout. Instead, they closed within 77–72 before Mitchell’s mini explosion.
Even if the Lakers only shot 30% on 3-pointers, they still would have beaten Detroit by 8. That’s saying a lot for this young team.
The Lakers are exciting and full of energy, but that was the case last year when the team was 10–10 with huge wins over Houston and Golden State.
We’ll know a lot more about the team over the next month. Can they maintain their energy throughout a 4-game 6-day road trip? Can they put together a streak of home wins against a group of teams that don’t look like playoff contenders? And can they show progress by getting a signature win against the Clippers or Golden State at the end of November?
If Randle and the starters keeps playing at this level defensively, the Lakers are a completely different team. We already know that the bench will dominate their counterparts, just like last year (Lakers are currently the #1 bench in the NBA in point differential). All the starters have to do is not dig a double-digit hole for the team.