Stat: The Los Angeles Lakers rank last in the league in turnover rate differential with a mark of +3.36. Second worst Oklahoma City is a full point behind the Lakers at +2.35.
Take: That Los Angeles is so bad with regard to turnover differential surprises on the surface due to their status as seasoned veterans, but digging deeper it’s easy to understand why.
Though it may not seem this way because of exceedingly familiar purple and gold names like Bryant, Bynum, and Gasol, the Lakers underwent a drastic identity change in the offseason. Chief among them was replacing Phil Jackson as coach with Mike Brown, and abandoning the former’s offensive and defensive principles for the latter’s. For a group so adept and comfortable running an intricate offense and defense like Jackson’s, making the switch to sets and tendencies preferred by Brown would surely be an adjustment, and it’s proven such as the season’s worn on.
Of course, the ever-important aspect of continuity in this shortened, practice-less season was only lessened more by LA’s trade of Lamar Odom to Dallas just before the start of the season. Suddenly the lengthy and versatile Lakers of the Gasol era were without their offensive and defensive Swiss Army Knife, a guy capable of playing and guarding multiple positions. The loss of Odom – his dreadful performance in Dallas this season withstanding – can’t go overlooked in examining these Lakers, and no doubt contributes to their woes in terms of creating and committing miscues.
The notion that the Lakers are losing the turnover battle mostly due to season-to-season attrition is backed up, simply, with analytics:
- In 2011 LAL had the league’s second best offensive turnover rate; in 2012 LAL has the league’s ninth worst offensive turnover rate.
- In 2011 LAL ranked 22nd in forcing turnovers; in 2012 LAL ranks dead last in forcing turnovers.
So, what was previously a key part of Los Angeles’ success is now, arguably, its chief weakness, and one that could obviously haunt them in the postseason as the Lakers play the unfamiliar role as Western Conference sleeper.