The Los Angeles Lakers are fulfilling the predictions sent their way before the start of the season. It seems that for now, the Lakers are the team to beat this year. They're the best team in the league sitting at 14-4.
They have the second-best defensive rating in the league with 104.5, behind the league's best defense - the New York Knickerbockers at 103.8. Thibs gonna Thibs. They are 7th in offense, scoring an average of 114.3 points per game. That puts them at no.1 in differential - the Lakers win with an average margin of 9.8 points.
All those numbers suggest that the Lakers have successfully implemented a team-first philosophy. In support of that, the individual stats are saying that in the six major categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks, 3-pointers made, and steals), the Lakers have only one guy in the top five in the league - Anthony Davis is fifth among blockers with 1.9 blocks per game.
One other thing is even more impressive and says a lot about this Lakers team - they have a positive net rating when LeBron James is not on the court. When LeBron plays, the Lakers have +12.1, but the Lakers have a +1.7 when he's resting on the bench. And if that keeps up throughout the season, that will be the first time in James' career that the team has a positive net rating without him on the floor.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Lakers can prevail without their leader. James is having another MVP-like year. Before the Cleveland game, he has averaged 25.2 points with a 57.0% effective field goal percentage, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. However, Lakers coach Frank Vogel thinks that Lebron and the Lakers have room for improvement. Vogel pointed that out after the win against the Bulls.
"Yeah, we got to be better. That's the simplest way to put it. We'll learn from it and hopefully get better next time. Hopefully, we're going to be up again by 20 or 30 at halftime at some point, and we'll draw back on this experience knowing that we didn't do well enough here, and we got to be better in the future."
Frank Vogel, Reuters
That's how you prevent a championship team from taking it too easy and underestimating their opponents. The Lakers shuffled a lot of their roster, and the numbers say they are even better than they were last year. With Anthony Davis coming fully into his own under LeBron's mentorship, that's scary news for the rest of the league.