With the standard ‘it’s too early in the season to tell’ caveats in tow, the Lakers have infinitely more to worry about in their bottom-of-the-barrel conference misery than do the rebuilding 76ers.
Both teams have yet to drum up much respect in their respective conference (or, at all, for that matter). But, the Lakers are losing in a way that spells trouble now and, more assuredly, for the long haul. The only thing they might have going for them is that their putrid start has come at the hands of good-to-top tier teams. Oh, and they won Monday night! Prepare the championship parade.
Though Kobe has been leading the league in scoring, his very presence is at odds with the Lakers long-term success. It’s worth mentioning that there was no easy way for the franchise to remain loyal to the superstar while also ensuring a sustainable rebuilding plan but it certainly doesn’t look like a starting five of Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Wesley Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Jordan Hill.
We received our fair share of vitriol for tugging at Kobe’s pristine image before, but perhaps there’s some wisdom in the notion of trading the oldhead? That’s not to say that all of the Lakers’ problems start and end with Kobe, but, when a 36-year-old player coming off of major injuries is at a 38.2 percent Usage Rate while posting negative — yes, negative — numbers in Defensive Win Shares, Win Shares Per 48 Minutes, and Value Over Replacement Player (which looks at the difference in points Kobe would post over a replacement player per 100 team possessions) the question of ‘what limb to sever to save the body’ arises.
Philadelphia isn’t exactly in a title race but have remained competitive in games that the Lakers would have gotten blown out in. Not to mention that their strategy of graceless tanking at least shoots at a foreseeable ray of hope. And, really, it’s not like the 76ers should even be judged for their competitiveness when their success points in the opposite direction. They want to lose as much as the lowly Lakers want to win.
The Lakers are somewhere between a lottery team and a recently crowned championship team who is still coping with the loss of better days. With them allowing opposing teams 116.8 points per night, it doesn’t seem like better times lie anywhere near either. And it’s not like promising pickups like Julius Randle are suffering through the tears first-hand to learn from them.
Los Angeles isn’t without some bright spots as Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lin, Ed Davis, and Wayne Ellington look like parts of some parallel Lakers team that actually has some concept of what it’s supposed to be. But this version, at least in its current injured and chaotic incarnation, isn’t that team. And, if they don’t take some cues from their respective tankers, the 76ers, it might be ages before we see anything better from them.
To make matters worse, they have a back-to-back against Memphis and Davis’ New Orleans, followed by a San Antonio-Golden State-Atlanta-Houston-Dallas melee that’s going to be tough to survive.