Lakers Perimeter Defense could be an issue
The Lakers are only 0-2, but make no mistake about it, there is reason for concern in LA, and not because of the fact this bunch of players have not seen victory in either the preseason or the regular season, but because of the makeup of the team. Based on name recognition you would pencil the Lakers in for a trip to the NBA finals, but the name recognition might come at a steep cost. Defensive win share (better known as DWS) is a formula that indicates the amount of games a team will win due to that player’s defense, and Offensive win share (better known as OWS) indicates the amount of wins a team will win due to that players offense. It is not an exact science, but it has proven to be pretty close over the years. (The following URL better explains win share http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/ws.html).
Even post Harden trade, the Oklahoma City Thunder are known for their perimeter offense. So to beat the Thunder, in theory you would want a team with great defenders on the perimeter. One premise that is widely accepted throughout the league is that Kobe is a lock down defender. At one point in his career, that was true, but as you can see by the graph below, Kobe is declining defensively. Besides the one blip in the 2005-2005 season, when Shaq left Kobe on a bad team, his DWS stayed above 2. The past 3 seasons this stat has dipped. Is it an indicator of age or situation? My eyes tell me age.
Now that would not be an issue, but when you couple that together with a possibly declining Metta World Peace (his DWS is all over the place), and an obviously already declined Steve Nash, it raises a real issue. The Lakers spent a lot of money bringing in Dwight Howard, but his defense has been offset by the age of his teammates. Below are the figures for World Peace and Nash.
Now for the positive. Despite this glaring deficiency on the team, they should still be projected to win a lot more games. Below is are graphs of the projected DWS and OWS for the starters on this team as well as the Lakers past 5 Lakers teams. As you can, if no one gets hurt they should still win around 8-10 more games than last year after you factor in the adjustment for last year’s shortened season. This would place them at about 48-50 wins, which is good, but not the dominant team that we expected. I will give Dwight the Benefit of the doubt and assume he is mostly healthy.
So in conclusion, while the starters will win the Lakers approximately 10 more games than last year’s starters, it comes at the cost of a ravaged bench, an older injury prone team. and a defense that will struggle in key areas against the Thunder. If Nash stays healthy, he could add 7-8 wins with his offense alone, but it is a gamble to take on 38 year old legs. Based on name recognition alone you would think the Lakers should challenge for the best record in the West, but instead I have them penciled in as a 3rd seed that probably cannot match up to the Oklahoma City Thunder.