Kyrie Irving's best traits are simultaneously extremely valuable and extremely narrow. He makes your half-court offense better. He generates easy baskets in transition. He can carry your bench offense for stretches. He's an excellent late-game shotmaker. In the right setting, these skills are absolutely critical. They will be to a Dallas Mavericks team that desperately needed another shot-creator next to Luka Doncic. But to the Los Angeles Lakers? They were probably a luxury the team simply can't afford.
The Lakers are hardly an elite half-court offense, but they get by. They rank 15th in half-court points per play this season, according to Cleaning the Glass. That's hardly ideal, but remember, the 2020 championship ranked 16th... and then upped its average by nearly seven points per 100 plays in the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, refocusing an offense around 30 minutes or so of LeBron James-Anthony Davis pick-and-rolls with proper spacing does wonders on the scoreboard.
Transition scoring has been a Lakers strength. They rank fifth in the NBA in fast-break points and second in the league in pace. This is a team built on athleticism. Easy baskets are plentiful. Bench scoring has been a bit more of a problem. As a whole, the Laker offense dips by eight points per 100 possessions when James goes to the bench. Irving didn't exactly solve this problem in Cleveland, though. Amazingly, in their three seasons together, Cleveland's offense dipped by at least 13.5 points per 100 possessions without James in each year. Besides, most of that James-less decline this season has been a result of Davis' absence. Lineups featuring Davis and no James have scored in the 67th percentile in terms of efficiency this season, according to Cleaning the Glass. The Lakers don't need to win the no-LeBron minutes. They just need to survive them. When Davis has been healthy, they largely have.
That brings us to late-game offense, which, surprisingly, has been among this team's best traits. The Lakers rank ninth in clutch offense this season. They lead the NBA by scoring 119.5 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter. There have been isolated incidents of stagnant late-game offense, but they've largely boiled down to correctable issues. When the Lakers struggled to put away the Portland Trail Blazers in October, for instance, the problem could be traced back to Russell Westbrook. The Blazers defended him with center Jusuf Nurkic, which is to say that they didn't really defend him at all an effectively played the Lakers five-on-four. Several other teams have copied this tactic. It can be solved by simply not playing Westbrook, a complete non-shooter, down the stretch of games. Darvin Ham has proven more comfortable doing so recently, but he hasn't pulled the plug on the 2017 MVP entirely.