Winning an NBA title is no easy task. In the last 20 seasons, only 6 franchises have won the championship. That same ratio holds true for the entire span of NBA history, because in 60 NBA seasons, only 18 franchises have had the privilege to hoist a championship banner.
Fortunately for you, the Lakers have had their share of titles. However, the past does not equal the future or present. We as fans have a tendency to think that winning NBA titles is our birthright when actually the complexion of the league has changed dramatically.
Almost every championship caliber team has had at least one player that transcends the generation and lives in the annals of the Hall of Fame. Our Lakers team has one of those players.
These championship teams have also tended to be great defensive teams. Sure, there have been a few that weren’t noted for their stellar defense, but we can certainly say that a top defensive team has a much greater chance at a title than an average defensive team. Right now, our team is displaying the effort on defense that will bring in many more wins than losses. The team defense is accented by Kobe Bryant, who is playing defense at a level that will win games and win him the defensive player of the year should he continue at this pace. The rest of the team has followed his lead. Still, they have a lot of room for improvement, and that’s the good news.
Most championship teams have successful half court offenses. Because defense tends be a championship trait, typically the top tier defenses will force a half court set. This doesn’t mean that a run and gun style such as the Mavericks or Suns cannot win a title, it just means they must be able to manufacture points in the half court set against top defensive teams such as San Antonio. The Lakers have a great half court offense in the triangle. This offense requires good passing and off the ball movement to be successful. The Lakers have recently committed to becoming proficient at both of those qualities this season.
From a structural point of view, the Lakers are playing a style of basketball that gives them an opportunity to compete for a title. The true question isn’t if they can do it, the true question is will they? Competing for a title also requires health. In 1989 and 2004, the Lakers did not win the title primary because of injuries during the championship series.
Assuming the Lakers miraculously avoid health issues, their next concern will be consistent play from key individuals. There’s no doubt that players like Lamar, Farmar, or Bynum have the ability to shine. Once the season matures and the Lakers are heading into the playoffs, all of those players must consistently have terrific games for the Lakers to have a shot. Bynum must become the low post threat, even against the top big men in the game. Farmar must be able to defend while he also penetrates the opposition’s defense. Lamar must remain healthy and continue his excellent play that we’ve seen lately. In short, everything must come together perfectly and we need these players to continue to make big strides as the season continues.
Finally, championship teams have a special mentality that brings everyone together for the common goal. We have some players who aren’t likely to fit that mold, but we also have some key players that will cause this to happen. Every championship team has leadership from the bench as well as the court. The Lakers now have both of those ingredients, and it simply doesn’t get any better than Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher.
In this upcoming road trip, be mindful to watch the team dynamics. The Lakers will do things well and will do other things not so well. This is to be expected. Instead, watch for the ingredients of a championship team. Do they stay on a defensive attack strategy throughout the game? Do they keep their poise? How do the key role players play against a top team? How challenging is it for the team to create easy scoring opportunities in the half court set? How does the team respond to adversity?
These are all questions that will help us know if our team has what it takes.