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LeBron James and Russell Westbrook’s fouling is costing the Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) and forward LeBron James (6) walk to the bench during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors (Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 28: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers congratulates LeBron James #6 after scoring he scored a basket and was fouled against the Detroit Pistons during the second half at Staples Center on November 28, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They are currently giving up the second-most points, allowing opponents to score 113.4 points per game.

The defensive issues are associated with them fouling the opposing team way too often. Los Angeles currently has multiple players in the top ten of opponents’ fouls per game. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are allowing opponents to draw at least 15 fouls per game.

For example, Westbrook stood near the restricted area with a little bit over 2 minutes in the third quarter of a home game against the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook remained there as DeMar DeRozan had the ball at the top of the key.

DeRozan decided to pass the ball to Derrick Jones Jr, who was open near the elbow. Jones took a few steps to the basket upon receiving the ball before attempting a floater over multiple defenders. As Jones went up to shoot, Westbrook fouled him on the elbow. Despite the foul, Jones made the shot and got a free throw.

James and Westbrook have been the driving force behind the team being third in opponents’ foul drawn, averaging 20.5 per game. The Lakers’ propensity to foul players as they approach the basket has led opponents to average 24.3 free throws per game – the second-highest mark in the league.

Opponents have made 73.9 percent of those attempts, averaging 17.3 points from the free-throw line – the fourth-highest mark in the league. James and Westbrook are responsible for more than 50 percent of the opponents’ free throw attempts averaging 17.7 and 16.7 per game, respectively.

The Lakers’ fouling issues come down to a lack of movement from James and Westbrook. James is the fourth slowest player in the league, with at least five games played with an average speed of 3.3 miles per hour. Westbrook is far behind, averaging 3.66 miles per hour.

The lack of movement from both players has led to them attempting to foul their defensive assignments to stop opponents from scoring. For example, Westbrook was assigned to guard Saddiq Bey on the right-wing midway through the 3rd quarter of a road game against the Detroit Pistons. Westbrook contested a Bey three-pointer leading to a miss.

However, Isaiah Stewart got the rebound, leading Bey to cut to the basket. Unfortunately, Westbrook lost track of Bey for a few seconds because he was watching the ball. Therefore, Bey got a free path to the basket. After the seconds, Westbrook tried to stop Bey by attempting to hit him for a foul, but he missed, leading to a dunk.

If James and Westbrook give more defensive effort, the free throw attempts should be closer to league average, 15.5 per game. Getting the free throws closer to league average will make their defensive statistics look better.

The Lakers are currently 17th in opponents’ three-point percentage, only allowing them to convert 34.7 percent of the shots from behind the arc on 37.3 attempts. The Lakers’ success in defending threes has allowed them to hold opponents to 45.3 percent shooting from the field on 91.8 shots per game – 19th in the league.

In conclusion, the Lakers’ defensive issues are tied to how much they are fouling the opposing team.

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