3 key weaknesses the Lakers must immediately improve upon to make the playoffs this season

Peter Dewey
8 Min Read

Time is running out for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2022-23 season, as they have just 23 regular season games remaining once the NBA returns from its All-Star break.

Los Angeles currently holds the No. 13 seed in the Western Conference, sitting two games behind the No. 10 seed Oklahoma City Thunder and 3.5 games behind the No. 6 seed Dallas Mavericks.

There’s no doubt that with some strong play that the Lakers could make up those deficits to at least get into the play-in tournament this season, but they have been inconsistent with their play for most of the 2022-23 campaign.

Earlier this month, star big man Anthony Davis said that the team is looking at finishing with a top-six seed, but that goal is only going to get tougher with each loss the rest of the way.

The Lakers’ front office showed confidence in this team by trading for D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, moving off of Russell Westbrook and one of the team’s prized first-round selections to have a better chance at competing for the playoffs.

Still, with LeBron James nursing a foot injury and Davis missing time earlier this season, the Lakers are behind the eight ball at this point in the 2022-23 campaign.

So what does the team need to do to at least get into the play-in tournament and have a shot at the playoffs?

The acquisitions at the deadline will help, but the Lakers have to perform on the floor as well. Here are the areas where they must improve to make the playoffs this season:

1. 3-point shooting

D'Angelo Russell Lakers

Arguably the biggest issue on offense for the Lakers this season has been their shooting, specifically from beyond the arc.

Entering the All-Star break, Los Angeles ranks 26th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (33.7) and 29th in the league in 3-pointers made per game (10.4).

Only the Chicago Bulls (10.3) have made fewer shots per game from beyond the arc this season, and they average just 28.8 attempts per game from deep, compared to the Lakers at 31.0.

The additions of Russell and Beasley, as well as the return of Austin Reaves, should help the Lakers improve from downtown down the stretch of this season.

It’s great that James and Davis can be such dominant players at getting to the rim, but they are going to be even more effective if the Lakers can space the floor with proven shooters.

The NBA, whether fans like it or not, has become a 3-point shooting league in recent seasons. If the Lakers want to compete with some of the better shooting teams in the West, especially if they end up in a winner-take-all scenario in the play-in tournament, they have to make shots consistently from 3.

Swapping out Westbrook’s poor shooting is a start, but even James (31.0 percent from deep this season) needs to do his part shooting the ball down the stretch.

2. Losing streaks

Anthony Davis Lakers

This isn’t as much of an adjustment on the floor, but losing streaks have crushed the Lakers this season.

They have lost three games or more in a row on six separate occasions this season, crushing some of the progress that they’ve made when they have played winning basketball.

Now, there are just 23 games to go, meaning every single matchup, especially against other teams fighting for postseason spots in the West, is crucial.

Los Angeles isn’t going to go undefeated the rest of the season, but avoiding a four-game skid, three-game skid or even back-to-back losses will help it from slipping out of the playoff picture.

As it stands, the Lakers are 1.5 games behind the No. 12 seed Portland Trail Blazers, who they lost to on Monday. Those losses are going to hurt even more with less games left, so the team has to have a short memory and stop the bleeding if a similar defeat comes over these final 23 games.

There simply isn’t enough time to rebound if the team goes into another funk.

3. Defense

Julius Randle and LeBron James

It’s no secret that the Lakers haven’t been the same team defensively as they were when they won the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 season.

This season, Los Angeles is just 18th in the league in defensive rating through its first 59 games.

It could be worse, but when one looks at the Lakers teams that have made the playoffs in the James era, they have been elite on the defensive end.

In the 2019-20 season, Los Angeles was No. 3 in the NBA in defensive rating at 106.1. This season, the Lakers’ defensive rating sits at 113.9.

Given the Lakers’ offensive struggles at times this season, the team needs to be able to hang its hat on the defensive end, something it did in the 2020-21 campaign when it earned the No. 7 seed in the West.

The Lakers fell into the play-in tournament that season because an ankle injury knocked out James for a good portion of the season, yet they still hung around in the playoff picture.

What was the key?

Well, the Lakers were No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating that season at 106.8, very similar to their defensive rating when they won the title the previous season.

Now that James’ foot is bothering him, the Lakers have to buckle up on defense, especially when he misses games. They may be able to steal a game or two on a bad offensive night if they can limit their opponents.

Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba give them two solid defenders, and the team is hoping Beasley, Reaves and others can pick up the slack at guard with the team trading away one of its best perimeter defenders in Patrick Beverley.

Los Angeles has started to improve defensively over its last 15 games, but there is still a lot of room to grow.


It’s not a coincidence that the Lakers had elite defensive units and made the playoffs in 2020 and 2021. They may not finish this season top five in the league in defense, but a strong finish would go a long way toward earning a playoff berth.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.