Hello, Happy New Year from Lakers Lair and welcome to another edition of Three-Man Weave. Three-Man Weave is a subjective, Lakers-related column where our resident L.A. fans answer a series of questions regarding the Purple & Gold. The first edition followed a Christmas theme, and this week’s article will inquire about the Lakers’ recent struggles and if they can turn things around in 2017. This week’s participants are…
DJ Allen (@DJAllen23)
B.J. Boyer (@wcboyer24)
Ralph Cortes (@__RLoading)
1. The Lakers have lost 15 out of their last 17 games. What has been the most frustrating thing about this slump?
Allen: Just seeing where they started to where they are now has been the hardest part for me. As a fan, I had high hopes talking trash to others about how good this team was. But that ended quickly with this huge slump that they’ve been under. There was so much hope early on, even talks of playoffs. And as a realist, you knew there would be a slump but just not like this.
Boyer: I’ve been discouraged by the Lakers’ lack of fire. Earlier in the season Los Angeles played with grit, showed some flair and had a swagger that had been unbeknown to our fans since the days of Kobe and Gasol. Now with the team in the midst of a slump, the joy has been zapped and the vibes radiating from this team just aren’t the same. Players like Thomas Robinson and Tarik Black can always be counted on for energy and effort, but it shouldn’t be a trickle up effect. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have to play with the vigor necessary to lead the Lakers and that should permeate through the rest of the team. Let’s see who steps up to the plate in 2017.
Cortes: The Lakers failing to capitalize is the most frustrating this about this slump. Of course, they’re a young team and they are prone to mental mistakes but seeing it over and over again gets frustrating. They had two games against the Heat and Hornets where they were up 19 at one point and ended up blowing the lead against these teams. There were many other games in which the opportunity for them to win was there for the taking but they fail to capitalize on the given opportunities. If they can find ways to capitalize more, they should be well on their way to becoming a better team.
2. What has been more concerning to you: the Lakers’ defense or their constant blown leads?
Allen: To me it’s the consistency of blown leads. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a game given up from blowing a lead. I knew the Lakers were young but I thought that was the reason of bringing in guys like Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng (on a 4-YEAR CONTRACT). There were multiple games given up within this slump that were lost late. The talent is there to stay with a lot of these teams but they have to figure out how to win late in games.
Boyer: The defense. Aside from turnovers, the Lakers’ shoddy defense is usually the reason they’re relinquishing huge leads. In the Lakers’ last 17 games only one team, the Philadelphia Sixers, has scored less than 100 points. Houston registered 134 points in an embarrassing drubbing earlier in December, and the Lakers’ weaknesses on that end of the floor have been exploited after looking okay on D to start the season. We hope Los Angeles’ proclivity for blowing big margins should stop as the team matures, but they won’t make the strides we anticipate until they clean things up defensively.
Cortes: Defense. These two usually go hand in hand however. They fail to play defense well and that results to teams getting easy buckets and coming back from LA’s huge leads. Sometimes, you have to give credit where credit is due when teams like the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors starting dropping 110+ points on the team. What is frustrating is that the effort or intensity of the defensive side of the ball is not there at all. Lakers must shore up the defensive end of the floor because that is what leads to blown leads.
3. As we start to creep towards the trade deadline, would you consider trading Lou Williams?
Allen: This sounds very enticing. He’s been the Lakers best player this season but as they’re essentially creeping more and more out of playoff contention, a Lou Williams trade makes a lot of sense. I would love a rim protector or another shooter at the SF position. Mozgov hasn’t been what I thought he would be and in today’s game, you could never have enough shooters.
Boyer: This is such a middling issue for me, but I’m going to have to lean towards yes. If possible the Lakers should look to flip Lou Williams to a contender, and either welcome in some more young talent or try to finesse a late first-round pick. A second-round pick is a lot more feasible, but teams will be enticed by Williams’ scoring acuity and his cheap contract. Williams is having a career year and can give a contender an offensive safety valve. Concerns may include age and defense, but he can provide any team with a potent scoring punch off the bench.
Trading Williams would allow Luke to impart Jordan Clarkson with more ball-handling and playmaking duties, something Walton has been asking more of from the third-year guard and would further open the minute windows of Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell.
Cortes: Trading Lou Williams is definitely worth considering because of the fact that his trade value is as high as it can be and if the Lakers want to get good value for him, they should capitalize on that by trading him for a young player or even a draft pick. Sweet Lou has been LA’s most consistent scorer and it would be difficult to trade someone as reliable as him, however, since the Lakers are focusing on their young players more, they should start to get them involved much more, like what the Minnesota Timberwolves do with Towns, Wiggins, etc.
4. The Lakers won two games in December. How many will they win in January? (Notable games: @POR x2, @UTH, @SAS, @LAC).
Allen: There are a ton of winnable games within the month of January against teams like Denver, Dallas, and Detroit. With that being said, I believe they can get like three of the notable games as well. The Lakers are more than capable of beating the Clippers, Jazz, and Trail Blazers. So January can either be a great month or just an addition to this horrible slump.
Boyer: With games against the likes of the Grizzlies, Spurs and Jazz, January will probably prove to be another rugged month for the Lakers, but I say they’ll snag five wins: Orlando, Detroit, Denver, a road game against Dallas and one of their road games against Portland. My two main focuses for this month are to walk away from January unscathed in terms of injury and to get a win over the freaking Mavericks. Los Angeles had two miffing losses to Dallas this season, and it’s time to avenge them right in the face of Mark Cuban.
Cortes: This team is good enough to compete with almost all of the teams in the league, it’s all about playing consistent basketball. With that being said, if they can shore up some mental mistakes and capitalize more, winning half of their games for this month sounds like a smart guess. As for the notable games, their games in Portland and against the Clippers are games that the Lakers can take.
5. True or False: Brandon Ingram will become a starter before the All-Star Break.
Allen: False. I don’t see him starting unless it’s from a growth standpoint. Production wise, I haven’t seen anything that says he deserves to start. 7.4 points per game, 34.5% from the field, and 24.1% from behind the arc does not sound like a starting player in the NBA. However, with the Lakers becoming more and more out of playoff contention, I wouldn’t mind giving Ingram more minutes and more confidence to overcome the struggles of his rookie season thus far.
Boyer: I hope this is true. I can definitely see Brandon Ingram being pegged as a starter at some juncture of the season, but I’m not sure how optimistic I am that it will come before the All-Star Break. Luol Deng began to show some life in December after an atrocious start to the season, but starting Ingram would afford the Lakers the luxury of another playmaker next to D’Angelo Russell. Russell has untapped potential at the two-guard, and inserting Ingram into the starting squad would free Russell of manning ball-handling duties as much as he normally does and allow him to cut (which is he very underrated at), and catch-and-shoot, where he is an assassin. If (hopefully when) Ingram becomes a starter, I can see it coming after the ASB.
Cortes: Yes. He needs to much more aggressive if he wants to start however. His playmaking, defense, and rebounding are above a rookie’s standards but he needs to be more aggressive with his shot because he can’t expect his shot to fall when he barely shoots it. The more shots he takes, the more comfortable he gets and that’s when his shots start going through the net. If Brandon does start to shoot more and just be more aggressive, Luke might just put him in as the starting small forward for the Lakers.