The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a better start than most anticipated, starting the season 5-6 over their first eleven games while posting a top-10 defensive rating in the NBA over that time.
Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton has already said that their defense is why he feels the start this year’s Lakers roster is off to is more sustainable start than last season’s team that was 10-10 to tip off the season. The Lakers maintaining and building on this level of play could potentially turn them into playoff contenders.
Of course if that were to happen the Lakers would be battling with a number of teams for those spots and Walton recently explained what he thinks the differences are between L.A. and other teams hoping to fight their way into the postseason via Bill Oram of the O.C. Register:
“Most of those teams have been together for a while,” Walton said, “and have gone after this and they’ve failed together. There’s nothing like failing to bring a good team together because then you realize how bad that hurts and how much more you want it.”
Does that lack of failing together yet mean the Lakers have no chance to make a run into the playoffs this season? No, the team could continue to drastically outperform expectations defensively and eventually see an uptick in offense if and when Lonzo Ball and other Lakers’ shots heat up a bit.
But while the Lakers’ youth doesn’t make it impossible, Walton is also right to pump the brakes a little bit. There simply aren’t many (if any) examples of teams improving as much as the Lakers have to start the year and sustaining it after being so poor the prior season, at least not without a major free agency addition.
The Lakers could be the team to break that trend, but as Walton notes, they will likely have to go through a little pain to spur their development first.
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