Lakers fans probably have waited too long for the team to shine again. Ever since Rob Pelinka and Earvin “Magic” Johnson took over the leadership, the future looked bright in Los Angeles. As the season progresses, it becomes easier to see the similarities between the Lakers and the champion Warriors.
A player-to-player match-up comparison illustrates how closely similar the Lakers are assembled like the Warriors.
At the small forward position, Brandon Ingram has the unique length, dual-ability to either drive to the hole or fire away from mid to three-point range, as well as a good foundation of highly skilled manoeuvres. This is an uncanny resemblance to Kevin Durant, who also entered the league with a similar offensive repertoire. Although he is already considered a decent NBA player, one applaudable trait that Ingram has is his quiet, tireless work ethic and desire to improve. Remember the early days of Durant? He was equally industrious during the off season and regular season in trying to better himself in which ever ways possible. Durant himself had shared that he sees himself in Ingram and complimented him for his hard work and skill set. What more can you ask for than to have one of the most prolific shooters to lay such lofty words for a sophomore?
At the power forward position, the Lakers have a glut of talent. The Lakers have three categorically strong power forwards. First, the athletic finisher of alley-hoops and clean-up master for rebounds or put-back dunks will be Larry Nance Junior. His plays alone makes your season ticket worth it. Second, the versatile switcher of defence who is a match-up nightmare for the opponents on a nightly basis will have to be Julius Randle. His combination of power, intensity and ability to guard all positions gives the capital letter ‘P’ to the Laker’s power forward position. Thirdly, the relentless scorer, hustler and competitor in Kyle Kuzma gives the Lakers their extra edge in their high octane style of plays. The Warriors are strikingly similar in having multiple pedigree power forwards who deliver during games. David West gives them the physicality and veteran anchor. Jordan Bell provides the youthful athleticism to close up any lapses or finish high flying plays. Draymond Green is the heart and soul of the team, being so versatile on defence in switching to guard all positions possible as well as orchestrating plays during offence.
At the point guard position, Lonzo Ball impacts the Lakers’ pace, passing culture, offensive scheme and opportunities as heavily as Stephen Curry does for the Warriors. Lonzo’s basketball IQ is off the charts, being able to anticipate the opponent’s plays two to three steps ahead and make winning plays for his team. In this regard, Steph is equally genius in his way of running the team. Lonzo is also able to utilize his offence to draw opponents to double team him so as to free up his team mates for the easy bucket, which is congruent with the way Steph makes his team mates better. Lonzo’s indispensable nature was quickly evident during his absence due to injury. In the stretch of tough schedule six games without Lonzo, the Los Angeles Lakers struggled horribly, most notably the 37-point loss to Oklahoma City Thunder. Once Lonzo returned to the line-up after recovery from his shoulder injury, the Lakers immediately claim two victories in their following three matches. Talk about being key to a team!
At the shooting guard position, the Lakers have Kentavious Cladwell Pope and Jordan Clarkson. KCP is a steady contributor and highly efficient on defense. He also can score in a variety of ways and often makes good decisions on plays. Clarkson is more of a dual-role guard who can double up as point or shooting guard when the need arises. His knack for scoring in bunches helps Lakers compete at a high level. The Lakers are pretty similar to the Warriors because they too have two excellent guard choices in Shaun Livingston and Nick Young. Livingston is more of a decision and play maker, who is reliable to take shots too. Young is more of a hot-handed shooter who can close up the gap by giving spurts of buckets.
At the center position, the Lakers, just like the Warriors, have a dependable veteran player who can provide the needed help on defence as well as shoot three-pointers reliably when it matters. This opens up the floor for the other players and allow the ball movement to flow smoothly in both teams. At the Warriors’ end, JaVale McGee provides a refreshingly good three-point shot when needed. He has steadily improved his shots and athleticism over the years. JaVale’s prowess in cleaning up the rim and firing from beyond the arc often creates good defence leading to easy buckets, which lightens the load off the team’s primary scorers. Brook Lopez, the Lakers big man, came in from Brooklyn as a solid rim-protector, 20-point scorer and efficient shooter. Equally good on both ends, he made 134 threes in the previous season and is on-pace to reach that target this season too. Brook is among some rare air of 20 players in the history of the league who tallied multiple seasons of at least 1500 points, 175 assists, 120 blocks and 120 offensive rebounds. He did it in 2016/2017, becoming the first player since Pau Gasol in 2011. He is also only the ninth player to clock such a stat line since the turn of the century.
Apart from player parallels, another big aspect that is similar for Lakers and Warriors is that both teams interplay their options equally often in their mix of line-ups. There is a long list of permutations and opponent teams find it hard to guess which line-up the Warriors or Lakers would use. Both teams are known to play different players to start and finish the same game too.
In terms of style of play, both teams pride themselves with the currently in-vogue “small ball”. The Warriors play fast and force opponents to play at their pace. The Lakers run a very similar uptempo way of basketball. The key thing is, both teams are excellent and entertaining to watch.
On 7 January 2018, the team inked their presence on the Lakers history books among some very elite company. In their 132-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks on this Sunday outing, the Lakers’ 42 fast-break points tie the franchise record set by the ‘Show Time’ Lakers many decades ago. That is a very good endorsement of the Lakers’ fast pace and puts them right there with the Warriors’ rapid fire game.
There are a ton of switching going on in the Warriors defence, where help-side defender must always be ready to spring on opponents to choke them with team defence. The Lakers also run a ton of team defence and are slowly learning how to switch with less defensive lapses. The Lakers are not as perfect and smooth but it is possible to see flashes of Warriors’ greatness when they do click.
Although still far from the Warriors’ league leading effectiveness in every regard, the improvement in the Lakers are commendable. As of 12 January 2018, the Lakers sit at 10th in points, second in rebounds, seventh in assists, eighth in steals and seventh in blocks. This puts them in very good legitimate company among playoff teams.
However, the Lakers still need to clean up on their shooting, which put them at 17th in field goal percentage, 25th in three pointers made and dead last for both free throws and three point percentage. If they can polish their shooting, they will be able to close out more games and their growth as an elite team will be exponential.
When you study the head coaches of both teams, you can also see so many similarities. Coach Steve Kerr has an excellent relationship with his players and is known to be extremely open, approachable and candid in his coaching style. He creates a mood of ease and fun competition in his team and players love playing for him. Coach Luke Walton is just as charismatic, if not more. He has no qualms in joking around and joining players for some fun competition that helps the team bonding a lot. He is accessible readily via text messages or face-to-face chats with the players and his team genuinely loves him. The effort put in by this fledgling Lakers team is high due mainly to his effective mentoring and relate-able persona.
Finally, how can we compare the Lakers with the Warriors without highlighting their awesome fan base? Lakers Nation and Dub Nation are both huge fan bases who are known for their loud, passionate, boisterous and superb support. No matter who the opponent is, which part of the season it is, regular or playoffs, the fans will always get out there in full force, ready to cheer their teams all the way.
Truly, what we are witnessing with the Lakers right now is an encouraging step in the right direction. Growth takes time but we do not know how long. Keep watching because who knows, one day in the near future, the Lakers could become contenders again.