Why D’Antoni’s Offensive System Is Exacerbating The Lakers Defense

The Los Angeles Lakers suffered their worst loss in franchise history Thursday night, dropping their record to 21-41, dead last in the Western Conference. Under Mike D’Antoni’s leadership, the Lakers are well below .500, having won just 61 out of the 134 games, since D’Antoni was hired in place of Mike Brown. Certainly, the Lakers slew of injuries goes hand in hand with the Lakers record. This year alone the Lakers have missed a whopping 225 games due to injury, the most in the NBA.

But injuries aren’t to blame for losing by 48 points, and Thursday night, the Lakers insisted that they did not quit out there. Instead, Robert Sacre conceded that their offense is making it even more difficult to defend, and defense has always been this team’s Achilles heel.

With this offense, we need the ball to move around,” Sacre said after their loss to the Clippers Thursday night. “When we get tough shots or we take tough shots it makes long rebounds, long rebounds turns into transition points and quick outlets…It makes us have to get back on the defensive end quicker, and translates into fast offense for the other team.”

Though D’Antoni has reiterated game after game, that their offense is not the problem, essentially, the Lakers offense is exacerbating their weakest flaw, their defense. The Lakers have given up 1,171 points off turnovers, second only to Philadelphia. Those transition points that Sacre is talking about? The Lakers have given up 1,011 second chance points this season, 97 more than the next team in that category. On average, they’ve allowed 16.3 points per game off second chance points.

The overarching principle in D’Antoni’s system falls back on the idea that the more offensive possessions a team has, the greater the opportunity to score more points. Though true in theory, with their current roster unable to execute the offense with any consistency, their defensive lapses have magnified exponentially.

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The Lakers aren’t having any trouble gaining possessions. As a matter of fact, the Lakers are averaging 100.2 possessions per game, which happens to be the second-most in the NBA. But, that stat doesn’t say much about their offense, when the only other team averaging more possessions happens to be worse than the Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers. For the Lakers, more possessions correlates to more turnovers, which turns into fastbreak opportunities.

After the Lakers lost to the Indiana Pacers last week, Pau Gasol told Time Warner Cable SportsNet that the team lacked discipline.

There’s just too many individual actions right now. It’s really not a good flow and rhythm out there,” Pau Gasol said candidly in his post-game interview on Time Warner Cable SportsNet

The night Steve Blake was traded, he thanked D’Antoni for giving him the freedom to succeed at his position. D’Antoni’s system does just that, it gives his players, specifically guards, freedom. That may work great on a healthy team with discipline and consistency, but the only thing D’Antoni’s system seems to be doing currently is work flawlessly for showcasing individual talents of the young guards.

Unfortunately, with the majority of Lakers players on one-year deals, it’s easy for the place-holders to take advantage of being able to showcase their individual talents. And, knowing that their future with the Lakers is short-lived, why wouldn’t they? What’s left to play for, besides their own personal pride? With an undisciplined team, this system allows players to easily stray away from fundamental team principles. In turn, the Lakers biggest weakness, their defense, becomes the centerpiece.

*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
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