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Newsletter: The Lakers have been a bad defensive team

San Antonio's Dejounte Murray drives between Russell Westbrook, left, and Austin Reaves.
San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray drives between Russell Westbrook, left, and Austin Reaves.
(Associated Press)
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Hi, this is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times. Good morning dear newsletter subscribers, it’s a big edition of the Lakers newsletter this week — so big, in fact, that it needed to wait a day while I processed how the team lost to the Thunder after leading by 26.

The pessimist’s guide to this season

The Lakers have played five games and, for their loss against the Thunder, were missing five players who conceivably would be in Frank Vogel’s preferred rotation and have played like five quarters of positive basketball since the team was put together.

Making any judgments that you wouldn’t easily move off of once there’s more information available would be incredibly foolish. There’s so much that can happen once the Lakers get more familiar with one another’s playing styles, once they better master the team’s systems and once they get a little healthier.

When those things happen, people should feel more confident in their diagnosis of the Lakers, and in the meantime, everything is a guess.

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Except maybe this one thing.

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The Lakers, five games into this year, have been a bad defensive team. As of Wednesday night, they’re 25th in the NBA, only slightly better than Indiana, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Orlando and Memphis.

The offense is better — 11th in the league — but hardly good enough to overcome the defensive deficiencies.

Carmelo Anthony celebrates after scoring a three-point shot against the Memphis Grizzlies.
(Associated Press)

That was partly the bet Rob Pelinka and the Lakers made this offseason in adding Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and others while sending out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma to Washington and letting Alex Caruso sign with Chicago (who is off to a great defensive start).

Yeah, the Lakers said that they still wanted to have one of the NBA’s best defenses, but so much of the defensive personnel the team employed was elsewhere. That meant the Lakers were going to have to be experts in their scheme.

But simple attacks, pick-and-rolls, have carved the Lakers up in their last two games, giving big men Jakob Poeltl and Derrick Favors easy dunks late in games when, in theory, the Lakers should be most locked in.

Everyone they’ve played has scored at least 114 points.

Maybe getting Kendrick Nunn back will help and maybe Talen Horton-Tucker will become the defender the Lakers are hoping and maybe an ankle surgery will somehow make Trevor Ariza feel younger.

Or maybe not — the help doesn’t seem like it’ll come from any lockdown individual defender because that’s just now how this team has been built.

The best bet will be for the Lakers to find continuity — to “get on a string” like NBA players like to say when a team can perform rotations in unison like synchronized swimmers. But it’s reasonable to think reintegrating four players who haven’t played at all this regular season won’t be easy and could prolong that process.

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A lot of things can and will change over the next few months with the Lakers. But their defense climbing back to the top of the NBA rankings? The Lakers probably traded those chances away.

See you soon, not goodbye

So today’s newsletter is going to be my last for a little bit, as I’m taking a few weeks off on paternity leave with baby No. 2 due any day.

Be sure to read Broderick Turner in the L.A. Times and at latimes.com/sports/lakers while I’m going to be up to my ears in diapers and sleepless nights.

Hooray!

In case you missed it

Lakers takeaways: There’s no excuse for losing to Thunder after leading by 26

Road might get tougher without LeBron: Takeaways from Lakers’ win over Spurs

NBA milestone and 28 points: Carmelo Anthony had ‘a hell of a night’ for Lakers

Lakers begin process of breaking down their many problems

Dwight Howard on Anthony Davis altercation: ‘We squashed it right then’

Carmelo Anthony accepts reserve role. Will it lead to sixth-man award?

Song of the week

LCD Soundsystem – oh baby (Live at Austin City Limits)

Talk to everyone soon.

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at daniel.woike@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!

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