Rockets vs. Lakers: LeBron James' home debut showcases two teams not ready to chase Warriors

LeBron James will make his Staples Center home debut Saturday night. His Los Angeles Lakers will face the Houston Rockets, last regular season's best team. 

It has all of the hype of a marquee game, and why wouldn't it? It's James' home debut in the Lakers' purple and gold, against the Western Conference runners-up. On a fall Saturday, it's getting the 10:30 p.m. ET slot on ESPN usually reserved for college football. But the bottom line is this: Saturday's showdown is a collision course of two entertaining but extremely flawed teams who may struggle to meet their expectations this season.

The Lakers can't shoot 3-pointers. Heck, they can't defend 3-pointers.

And the Rockets have clearly regressed from last season, losing two of their top three perimeter defenders and replacing them with an aging former All-Star who plays like it's still 2003.

Yes, we're only one game into the season for each team. And yes, these two teams should be playoff teams, with the Rockets likely to remain one of the best teams in the West and the Lakers certainly having the potential to get there.

But the problem here is that these two teams are so highly flawed that they stand no chance as currently constructed of unseating the Golden State Warriors, who withstood a major test Friday night from the Utah Jazz. At this point, you could argue a number of teams in the West -- the Jazz included -- have surpassed the Rockets and the Lakers.

The New Orleans Pelicans are blowing teams out. Heck, just ask the Rockets, because they completely blitzed them on opening night and scored 131 points on 53.1 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. Not only did three guys score at least 25 points for the Pelicans, they followed that performance with a 149-point massacre against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Utah proved to everyone that they are indeed in the Warriors' league by coming up a tip-in short of beating Golden State. They scored 81 points in the first half alone against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

Oh, yeah, and the San Antonio Spurs are still around, too. You know, that team that hasn't missed the playoffs since 1997, before Tim Duncan was even in the NBA. That team that has had the best winning percentage of any NBA team in the last 20 years.

The season is young. Obviously, the Rockets will probably look good on Saturday. The Lakers probably will too, I mean after all, they did look good for the first half vs. the Portland Trail Blazers on opening night (other than their lack of defense).

However, the Rockets are banking on Carmelo Anthony being a key factor. This is the same player who had his most inefficient season last year. He's a black hole when it comes to isolation basketball and plays a counteractive style to what the Rockets deem to be smart basketball. Houston predicates its success on 3-pointers and layups; Anthony usually does neither.

It's no surprise that Anthony posted a minus-20 rating off of the bench in just 27 minutes of playing time. It was by the worst of any bench player on the team, with Eric Gordon's minus-11 the second-worst.

In the case of the Lakers, they're playing a style of play that was successful when Magic Johnson was starring for the Purple and Gold in the 1980s. Johnson is running the show now, and it's not a coincidence that he built this team around a philosophy that worked 30 years ago. The problem is, it won't work in today's era. You absolutely need to have 3-point shooting in order to win and be a competent basketball team. That is the one thing the Lakers absolutely do not have.

The Lakers scored 63 points in the first half of their opener against the Blazers, with 50 of them coming inside the paint. They made zero 3-pointers in that span.  

These two teams are going to improve as the season goes on. The Rockets will figure out a better way to use Anthony while masking his deficiencies, along with covering up their glaring lack of defensive depth.

The Lakers will gain better chemistry as LeBron maximizes the talents around him and coach Luke Walton figures out which lineups work. Johnson -- like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey -- will probably realize at some point before the trade deadline that the Lakers need to acquire a competent 3-point shooter or two in order to have any chance of competing in the Western Conference playoffs.

But with all of that said, there's simply no denying it -- Saturday's "marquee" matchup represents two highly-flawed squads, not two teams ready to challenge the Warriors.

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