The Los Angeles Lakers have been known for their defensive identity over the past two seasons. The combination of LeBron James and Anthony Davis alongside a wide variety of 3-and-D role players made them the NBA’s best defensive team since Frank Vogel became the team’s coach, but with so many of their best defenders gone and Russell Westbrook taking their place, the Lakers are going to have to lean into their offense more this season. That’s not going to be easy, as according to James, they are installing an entirely new system to help incorporate and maximize all of their new players.
“We pretty much have got a whole new offensive system this year that we’ve been working through over our practices since training camp started,” James said after Friday’s preseason loss to the Golden State Warriors. “It’s an adjustment for us offensively, just having guys in different positions, having guys in different places on the floor with our new look and what we’re trying to do.”
“It’s going to be a process for us, but I think it will be better off for us in the long run. It keeps the ball moving from one side to another,” James said. “Not much with a dribble but more with a pass. And, obviously, we’ve got downhill attackers with Russ, K(endrick) Nunn, myself and Talen.”
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That is going to require more movement, both from the ball and the players. Mastering a more precise scheme like that takes time, and it’s worth noting that James’ teams tend to struggle initially in incorporating new players before eventually figuring it out.
2010-11 Heat, first half of season
2010-11 Heat, second half of season
2014-15 Cavaliers, first half of season
2014-15 Cavaliers, second half of season
James is one of the greatest problem-solvers in the history of basketball. If there is a way to make this offense work despite Westbrook’s deficiencies as a shooter, he is going to find it. It’s going to take time, but fortunately, the Lakers have perhaps the easiest opening schedule in basketball. There will be a cushion for them to work through the kinks. As long as the offense is solved by the postseason, the Lakers will be just fine.