The Los Angeles Lakers’ Worst Season: 2016

I really wish I didn’t have to write this one. Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour in 2015-16 came as the Los Angeles Lakers descended into full Dumpster fire status. Byron Scott, a guy synonymous with “game passed him by”, coached this outfit. Kobe’s teammates were as bad as any he had between his two title runs.

But ball don’t lie. The 17-65 season marks not only the only time the Lakers ever failed to win 20 games, the period from 2014 to 2017 marks the only four years the Lakers failed to win 30 games in their entire history in Los Angeles going all the way back to 1961.

You’ll notice I didn’t even qualify that with “in 82 games” either. The 2020 Lakers went 52-19, the 2021 edition managed 42-30, and even the 1999 Lakers, given only 50 games, went 31-19.

OK, I’ve stalled enough. You get it. The Lakers are one of the greatest franchises in NBA history. Let’s look into the one year they inarguably were not that.

The On-Court Record

This team started bad, like real bad. 24 games into the season, they were 3-21 and already 21 games out of first place thanks to the Golden State Warriors opening the season 24-0.

They then righted the ship for a 5-6 run that included three wins in a row before resuming their downward spiral.

The Lakers went 1-14 in their next 15 games and that was that. 9-41 to start the season, 8-24 (yes, seriously, they managed Kobe’s two numbers as a won-lost record in the last 32 games of Kobe’s career) to finish it.

Along the way, their minus-10.0 Net Rating was second-worst in the league behind only the mind-bendingly awful 10-72 Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers had the worst defense in the Association. And the average score of a Lakers game that year was 107-97 in favor of the other guys.

The Featured Players

This was Kobe Bryant’s last year in the league. He made $25 million in the last year before supermax contracts became a thing. The Lakers had only one other guy—Roy Hibbert, at an astounding $15.5 million—making over $7 million.

The rest of their guys were a who’s who of roster-fillers, junk, and rookies who weren’t good yet.

Kobe posted negative Win Shares, minus-0.4 of them in fact. If it weren’t for Kobe’s relentless ball hogging, the Lakers might have done more with their other guys. Lou Williams posted .119 WS/48. Brandon Bass posted .146.

On the other hand, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and especially D’Angelo Russell were all legit terrible, posting .039, .035, and .001 WS/48 respectively while playing the most minutes on the team in the order named.

So maybe this was a Dumpster fire. But a washed-up Kobe providing more wins to the other team than to his own by his play didn’t help.

The Coach

Scott-Hollins Syndrome is defined by this publication as “a coach, player, or media member afflicted with the belief that modern NBA offense, with an emphasis on 3-pointers, dunks, and free throws, is somehow detrimental to winning.”

Note that I don’t include “it isn’t entertaining.” That’s a value judgment you can make on your own.

But SHS and its attendant stat, D’Antoni Index (3-point attempt rate plus free throw rate plus percentage of shots taken within 3 feet of the rim, minus the sum of the league averages of those three stats), acknowledge that the best way to put a team in position to win basketball games is to eschew the midrange, fight your way to the line, make your free throws, and spread the floor with shooters who can stretch the defense and give your big man room to work down low.

This is how the Milwaukee Bucks won the 2021 title after all.

Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins lend their name to the syndrome because as coaches, they were as bad as it’s ever gotten (a washed-up Gregg Popovich coaching a dinosaur offense in San Antonio in 2022 notwithstanding) in terms of failing to understand how modern NBA offense works.

Scott coached this Lakers team. Surprisingly, they were 14th in 3PAR and eighth in FTR.

The trouble was twofold. One, they couldn’t fight their way to the rim, placing fourth up from the bottom in 0-3 foot attempt rate. And two, they couldn’t shoot for beans, finishing dead last in FG% and 3PT% by a country mile.

That, plus finishing 18th in pace, is how you score the fewest points in the league behind a team that went 10-72.

The Aftermath

Well, Kobe retired, a lot of drama happened that led to a shakeup in the Lakers’ front office, then LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the coronavirus had the Lakers hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in the 2020 neutral-site bubble.

From “worst season ever” to championship in four years is about as good as anyone can do, and the Lakers did it.

In the end, if you’re going to bottom out, you can do a lot worse than giving your fans one more year of the guy who, despite giving 0.4 of them back in his last season, is the all-time leader in Win Shares for the entire Lakers franchise.

NEXT: Memphis Grizzlies. Just be glad Vancouver doesn’t count, but don’t think I’m not going to bring it up. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!