The Lakers mid-season report card is in. They have played 41 games, marking the halfway point of the season. Their record is currently sitting at 21-20. Just barely one game above .500. That means it’s time to give them a grade on their progress so far.
I have broken down their grade into three categories. Team chemistry, effort/execution and progress. I then determine the overall grade by finding the average of those three categories. So, let’s get to it.
Team Chemistry: C
This has been a challenging season for team chemistry. Just to remind you for the umpteenth time, the Lakers only returned three players from last year. That means 12 new faces joined this team. Granted a few of them have played for the Lakers before, but that makes little difference for the here and now.
Frank Vogel also implemented a brand new offense this year. The growing pains of that offense have been evident in the first half of the season too. There have been quite a few times it’s broken down into bad isolation ball because players are still figuring things out. LeBron James is great and still playing at a a high level, but heaving up a late three or dribbling out the shot clock does not make for an effective modern NBA offense. He’s not a superhero.
With all these challenges there have been some positives though. One of the biggest being Russell Westbrook, despite all the hate he is getting for his miscues. Yes, you read that right. Russ has been a huge positive for team chemistry, and at the expense of his own game too. He is constantly trying to do the best thing for the team, and it’s obvious to anyone who watches earnestly.
He is also constantly talking to his teammates and helping them stay positive. When I watch him play I see a great teammate, and it’s obvious. He’s also helping LeBron have one his best scoring seasons in his entire career, but talking about that doesn’t get clicks. I get it. It’s easier to just say it’s all Russ’ fault.
Things were rocky to start the season but, you can see these guys are starting to feel comfortable with each other finally. If I had to grade them on just the past two weeks I’d give them an A minus, but that bad start means that they are a still just a C for the first half of the season.
Effort/Execution: D minus
I evaluate effort and execution together because I feel they are tied together in a teams identity. Their execution literally depends on the effort they put in. Obviously effort enough is not alone, so that is where the two meet in my mind.
Effort has been a problem all year long. There have been some games where it looked like no one cared, and others where they have looked they all had laser-like focus. There hasn’t been much in-between. Thankfully the focus has been winning out more often recently, but the flashes of no one caring do still come up from time to time.
Thinking about their execution this year makes me think of former NFL coach John McKay. He was once asked in a press conference “What do you think of your teams execution coach?” His response, “I’m in favor of it.”
All jokes aside though, their execution has been truly horrific this year. Way too many turnovers, and it’s not just Russ. So many off target passes and just downright bad shots. It’s been hard to watch some nights.
This again is a product of all the new faces, but even with that handicap still the best I can bring myself to giving them for this is a D minus.
Progress: B plus
This is the category that is the Lakers saving grace this season. The progress they have made from game 1 to game 41 has been pretty good. They were still starting two seven footers at the beginning of the season, without much success. Now they have almost hit their stride with LeBron at center and a small ball approach. Malik Monk in the starting lineup has been a revelation for this team as well.
When I think back on where they started to where they are now it’s hard not to be impressed. As a fan I am very pleased about the progress they have made, and that is what I hang my hope on for the second half of the season. This grade is an easy B plus. The only reason it doesn’t get an A is because it took Frank a little too long to start Malik.
So, to sum it all up this first half of the season has been just average. Kind of like their just barely over .500 record. Just good enough to pass, and not get looked down. This would be fine if the Lakers just wanted to get to the playoffs, but they have championship aspirations. Let’s hope they can get these grades up where they need to be for the second half of the season.
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