Los Angeles Lakers: What If This Squad Just Isn't a Championship Team?

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIINovember 26, 2012

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during play against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on November 24, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a start that could best be described as subpar.

Much of the enthusiasm about Dwight Howard and Steve Nash has waned, as Los Angeles has struggled with injuries, coaching changes and general game flow.

I hear a lot of Lakers fans who start conversations with the phrase, “As soon as.”

“As soon as Nash gets healthy, we are going to start dominating.”

“As soon as Dwight and Pau get into a better rhythm, we will be unstoppable inside.”

“As soon as Mike D’Antoni gets here, we will have Showtime again!”

Perhaps the Lakers are still finding their way and will eventually be a title contender again. After all, the team has essentially been without a point guard for most of the season. In addition, incorporating new stars will always take time.

Still, there are lingering questions that may not have easy answers.

What if this team is just not good enough? What if .500 basketball will be the theme all season?

I know that is not something Lakers fans want to hear, particularly during the last years of the Kobe era. After all, this fan base has had it pretty good for quite some time. It has not taken a great deal of effort to be a Lakers fan, given their ongoing success.

Still, it is difficult for a team in any sport to sustain success indefinitely. Every franchise goes through a time of rebuilding or reloading.

Everyone knows that this team is built to win right now. The front office has sacrificed draft picks and has moved away from developing young players in order to keep a veteran squad around Kobe Bryant.

The statistics are mixed. Los Angeles is seventh in the league in scoring, which is not surprising. Any team that has Kobe Bryant will score. The Lakers are currently sixth in rebounds per game. With Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the lineup, I would hope this squad could pull down some boards.

On the negative side, the Lakers are 24th in assists, which means they are not necessarily finding each other on a consistent basis. Some of this is explained by their shooting percentage, which is sixth in the league. If your shots are going down, you do not have to pass as much.

However, compare that rank to the top-shooting team in the league. The Miami Heat are tops in shooting percentage and fourth in assists. They hit shots, but they also move the ball effectively. 

Perhaps more telling is the turnovers. The Lakers are currently 29th in the NBA at 16.9 giveaways per game. Sure, the Lakers pounded a Nowitzki-less Mavericks squad, but they gave the ball away 19 times. Until the Lakers start taking better care of the ball, they will not return to elite status.

The Lakers will also need a few more road wins. The win in Dallas was a good start, but the Lakers are still 1-4 away from Staples Center.

One thing is for sure. This team cannot afford to lose any more stars to the injured list.

Maybe the Lakers will figure it out and regain their status as a top team in the Western Conference. Perhaps Steve Nash will get healthy and facilitate a new version of Showtime, sponsored by AARP. Then again, maybe this team will be in transition all season.  

Kobe will keep scoring, but the Lakers may keep struggling.