This is the sixth post in a series awarding midseason grades to some of the Lakers.
Coach: Mike Brown
Good: His work ethic, enthusiasm and positive demeanor helped him overcome a few hurdles. It won him favor with Kobe Bryant. It convinced a veteran-laden team to buy into his grinding mentality. It helped him handle some rough patches in a positive manner, such as a depleted roster and Metta World Peace’s frustrations with a bench role.
The other main ingredient involves the Lakers’ defense. They're sixth in total defense (91.38 points per game), opponent field-goal percentage (41.9%) and three-point percentage (32.5%). Considering how inconsistent the Lakers remained on defense last season, Brown deserves a lot of credit for changing the Lakers’ identity so quickly and with effective results.
Blame his constant roster changes on the poor personnel, but he mishandled the small forward position every step of the way. Promoting Devin Ebanks to a starting spot set him up for failure because he didn't have enough experience to handle such a promotion. Once he lost that spot, Brown hardly used Ebanks despite his potential. Matt Barnes remained the most consistent small forward, but he lost his spot because of his overly aggressive fouls and poor three-point shooting. But those weaknesses hardly determined the Lakers’ success or failure. Having World Peace come off the bench was a head-scratcher because of the possibility he could lose his focus. But after selling World Peace on taking a leadership role, Brown hardly utilized him in the post, the only way he’d actually succeed with that unit. Then he promoted World Peace back into the starting lineup, despite Barnes remaining solid.
Brown also had yet to fully maximize an offense that features Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Even with poor bench depth, there’s no justification for the Lakers averaging 93.5 points per game with such a talented trio. Part of that points to Gasol’s inconsistent aggression and Bynum’s transition in handling double-teams. But the poorly run offense mostly points to Brown overly relying on Bryant, resulting in heavy minutes and a disproportionate balance on offense.
There are a few extra areas where Brown deserves criticism, but he earns a pass in these categories. That includes handling a shortened practice schedule to implement his system, new and declining personnel and balancing between teaching and resting his players. There's frankly too much thrown at him to fairly evaluate how he handled it. In the second half of the season, Brown will have less of a grace period to correct these issues.