By Andy Roth
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
The Lakers lack firepower. Superman still wants to flee the Magical Kingdom, and the Knicks have proven they can beat bad and undermanned teams...sometimes.
I've got those stories and more in my latest take on the NBA.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
When you think about the Lakers, you normally don't think about problems putting the ball in the basket, but it has been an issue this season. They're averaging 94.6 ppg, down almost seven points from last year when they put up 101.5 points-per-game. They've managed to top the 100- point mark only once in ten games so far.
It's not difficult to identify why the offense has taken a hit this season. There's nobody that's even close to being capable of filling the scoring void left by the departure of Lamar Odom. Last year's Sixth Man of the Year winner was Los Angeles' third-leading scorer last season at 14.4 ppg. Not only are the Lakers lacking a quality scorer off the bench, but they don't have an above-average offensive player outside of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. That trio is accounting for 67% of the offense and are the only players averaging double-digit points. Even the Heat's "big three" aren't carrying as much of the offensive load, as they're accounting for 64% of the team's scoring, while Miami is also getting double-digit outputs from Mario Chalmers (11.4 ppg) and Norris Cole (10.9 ppg).
With Odom gone, Bryant is now the only player that can create his own shot off the dribble. When he's on the bench, it gets even tougher for Los Angeles to generate offense. And the Lakers are also shooting themselves in the foot from three-point range, hitting on a horrendous 24% of their attempts, ranking them 29th in the league.
Most teams that win championships have a more balanced attack than the Lakers have and usually have a reliable scorer off the bench This is an area of need that General Manager Mitch Kupchak would be wise to address.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Expectations were high in the Big Apple, yours truly excluded, but it's been a rocky start to say the least. The Knicks are sitting at the .500 mark after eight games, but there's nothing to get excited about in the four wins and there's certainly a lot to be upset about in the four losses.
The Knicks had to rally to beat a Celtics team without Paul Pierce on Opening Day and then eventually proceeded to beat the dysfunctional Kings (3-6), barely got by the laughing stocks of the league in the still winless Wizards (0-8) and routed the Pistons (2-6) who were without Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye.
In the four losses, a pair were by blowout margins against teams missing a key player, and the other two were at home against inferior opponents. The Knicks lost by 14 points to the Warriors with Stephen Curry sidelined, and took a 17- point beating by the Lakers with Andrew Bynum sitting out his four-game suspension. The other two defeats came at the Garden, as they lost to the Raptors and Bobcats. The loss to Charlotte was particularly embarrassing, and probably the low point of this young season, as the Knicks gave up 118 points to a Bobcats team that came in averaging 92.2 per game. Of note, Boris Diaw lit up the Knicks, and Amar'e Stoudemire in particular for 27 points on 12 of 15 from the floor (FG% of 75.0). In his seven other games against the rest of the league, Diaw is averaging just 7.2 ppg and shooting only 37%.
The Knicks are ranked 23rd in the league in opponents scoring, allowing 96.4 ppg and are 24th in defensive field goal percentage at 46%. The lesson learned here is that if the Knicks don't significantly improve on the defensive end of the floor, they can't be taken seriously come playoff time.
Before Sunday's game in Sacramento, impending free agent Dwight Howard reiterated his request for a trade. "Nothing has changed," Howard told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel prior to facing the Kings. Magic GM Otis Smith confirmed that Howard's request to be traded is still on the table, and his agent has permission to speak with the Mavericks, Lakers and Nets.
"I think his leaving or going has nothing to do with Orlando," Smith said. "I think he wants a bigger market. I can't do anything about that."
But what he can do is get the best possible deal and that would mean getting Andrew Bynum from the Lakers, who has clearly established himself in the early going as the second-best center in the league behind Howard. In six games Bynum has averaged 18.8 points and 15.7 rebounds. Because of his four-game suspension, he doesn't qualify for the league leaders yet, but his rebounding mark would put him at the top of the list, ahead of Kevin Love (15.0 rpg) and Howard (14.6 rpg).
Any trade with the Nets would be centered around Brook Lopez, who isn't expected back until at least early February after breaking a bone in his right foot in the preseason. The injury aside, Lopez is not in Bynum's league and even if the Nets can offer a more attractive package in terms of draft picks, it wouldn't be worth it to Orlando with there being such a big disparity in talent between Bynum and the Nets center.
As far as a deal to the Mavericks, I have to scratch my head on this one, because it doesn't seem to make sense for Howard or the Magic. Forget about the fact that the Mavs don't have any attractive trade chips, but Howard would be joining a team whose best players are on the other side of 30 and towards the tail end of their careers.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
No Manu, no problem in San Antonio so far. The Spurs lost Ginobili, their leading scorer (17.4 ppg) and two-time All-Star guard to a broken bone in his right hand during their January 2nd loss to the Timberwolves, but they've held up pretty well so far and I expect them to do the same until his expected return in mid-February or early March. The Spurs won their first three games following the injury, which included a 22-point blowout of the Mavericks, followed by a win over the 6-3 Nuggets. They finally lost for the first time without Ginobili the next night as they were beaten by the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
With the Spurs having a balanced attack, a veteran team that knows how to play the game and a reliable fill-in for Ginobili in Gary Neal, I don't think this will be a devastating blow. Neal, a second-year guard, is averaging 9.9 ppg in only 21.1 minutes during his short career, while shooting a deadly 42% from three-point range. His 36 minute-per-game scoring rate comes out to a very respectable 16.9 points. And keep in mind that in Ginobili's first four games prior to the injury he was averaging only 25.5 minutes per game.
The ageless wonder, Steve Nash (37), keeps on doing what he does best. The future Hall of Fame point guard dished out 17 assists in just 27 minutes last night in the Suns 109-93 rout of the Bucks. It marked the 40th time during his illustrious career that he handed out at least 17 assists in a game.
And speaking of the Valley of the Sun, it must seem like it's always cloudy for the Bucks. Yesterday's loss in Phoenix was their 24th consecutive defeat there, with the last win coming in 1987.
The Mavericks have gone 4-2 since stumbling out of the blocks with three straight losses. Give some of the credit to little-known back-up center Ian Mahinmi. During that six-game stretch he's averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 23.1 minutes and has shot an out-of-this world 78% from the field, hitting 21 of his 27 attempts.
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.