If there is a graphic that elucidates the difficulty of what the Lakers are attempting to accomplish this season, it is this one from Spectrum Sports, the team’s regional broadcaster. It shows that, heading into this past Saturday’s game against Dallas, LeBron James held a sizable lead over the No. 2 scorer on the team, Dennis Schroder.
James had 1,042 points at the time. Schroder had 857. That’s a difference of 185 points, a wide margin—despite the fact that James had missed 17 (now 18) games in a row.
— Sean Deveney (@SeanDeveney) April 26, 2021
After Schroder scored 16 points, the chart was not much different. And it is emblematic of the quandary the Lakers are in as James continues to heal from his high ankle sprain. Before James’ injury, the Lakers were 15th in offensive efficiency, at 112.0 points per 100 possessions. That has dropped to 109.7 points per 100 possessions, which is 21st in the NBA, according to league stats.
The Lakers, currently, have the No. 2 odds on winning the NBA championship, behind Brooklyn, per VegasInsider.com, despite having a terrible offense that will rank as historically bad if the Lakers do win the title.
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No NBA Champ Has Had Worse Offensive Numbers Than the Lakers
The Lakers’ offensive danger zone is real. They are likely to attempt to do something that has not been done in the last quarter-century, if at all.
In 24 seasons with advanced stats, the team with the worst offensive rating was the 2004 Pistons, who were 19th that season but had one of the league’s all-time great defenses. No other eventual NBA champion in the past 24 seasons has finished worse than 11th in offense.
The Lakers will play only 12 more games this season, which means they will not be reaching 11th in offense—and almost certainly won’t match the 2004 Pistons at No. 19, either.
It is not a surprise, naturally, that the Lakers have struggled to score without James. He is of advanced age (36) yet still bears a heavy brunt of the Lakers’ offensively lifting. James leads the Lakers with 25.4 points per game, also leading in assists (7.9 per game). He is shooting 51.3% from the field and 36.8% from the 3-point line.
Throughout James’ absence, too, the team has been missing star forward Anthony Davis. Davis has returned to action, but on a limited basis and scored only 21 total points on 7-for-29 shooting in two games.
Good News: LBJ Set to Return Soon
There is some good news in that James figures to be back soon. He suffered the ankle injury on March 20, which means we are in the sixth week of rehab and recovery for James.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said recently that James can be expected back on the floor soon.
“You’ll see Anthony Davis still be on that 15-minute restriction in his second game back,” Wojnarowski said, “but that’ll start ramping up as we get closer to LeBron James’ return, which could be as soon as the following week.”
The following week starts now, so all eyes will be on James’ potential return. The Lakers’ offense has been putrid without him, dropping the team to the bottom third of the league. He won’t have time to rescue the offense entirely, but e will, at least, give the team’s woebegone scorers a needed boost.