LeBron & Lakers Running to Greatness?
How LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers may be creating the next model for winning championships in today’s NBA
Despite the dismal three-point shooting, defensive struggles at the point of attack, and frustrating inability to rebound the basketball, it’s easy to see that LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers may be onto something special.
Luke Walton was not joking when he said he wanted the Lakers to play even faster than their third ranked 100.97 possessions per game from last season. This despite LeBron having never played on an NBA team top-ten in pace. Any concerns about the 34-year old LeBron embracing Luke Walton’s modern version of Showtime on steroids were quickly put to bed as James and the Lakers are leading the league with an amazing 112.00 possessions per game.
While the Lakers are unlikely to be able to maintain this pace all season, there’s no doubt they’re breaking new ground for how fast a team can play. The Lakers’ relentless pushing of the pace even after made baskets has them averaging league-best 28 fast break points and 70 points in paint per game, huge increases over their impressive second-ranked 17.5 fast break points per game and third-ranked 51.9 points in the paint per game from last season.
The Lakers’ blistering pace gave them a legitimate chance to beat the Blazers and Rockets despite shooting a league worst 24.2% on threes in the games. The frustration of losing both games by 9 points was compounded by the fact that had the Lakers just shot the poor 34.5% from deep they shot last year, when they ranked 29th out of 30 teams in 3-point shot shooting percentage, they would have made 3 more triples and scored 9 more points in each game.
While the Lakers remain a work in progress and the first half of the season is likely to be comprised of necessary growing pains and steep learning curves, the Lakers and LeBron James may be on the verge of creating the next model for winning championships in today’s NBA with a punishing transition attack that transforms the game into a rabid layup generating track meet that makes Magic Johnson’s juggernaut Showtime offense look like it’s in slow motion.
The Lakers couldn’t have chosen a better time to unleash their new turbo charged transition strategy as the league’s new rules designed to increase freedom of movement have triggered dramatic increases in pace and scores. So far this season, the NBA as a league is averaging 102.0 possessions per game, which is up 5% over last year’s 97.3 possessions per game, and 113.1 points per game, which is the ninth highest scoring average in NBA history.
While the Lakers will need to improve their 3-point shooting and figure out how to upgrade their point of attack defense and solve their rebounding problems when playing small, we’ve seen potential glimpses of greatness and an ability to hang with anybody that bodes well for the future of the team. It may take another superstar and another year of growth and development by the Lakers young core but there’s no doubt the Lakers are onto something.
There will continue to be skeptics who doubt that the Lakers’ out-of-the-box strategy for optimizing LeBron James could be the next model for dethroning the Golden State Warriors and giving them another championship banner but watching LeBron running up and down the court like an eager young colt, I can’t help but think Luke Walton’s breakneck run-and-gun transition game is the perfect match for James’ freakish speed, smarts, power, and athleticism.
We’re just two games into what hopefully will be a long and successful season for the Lakers but there are great signs that the LeBron James and Lakers may be on the verge of creating the next model for winning NBA championships.