The Lakers currently own a 29-7 record, the 5th best offense and 3rd best defense in the league, and are four games ahead of the Clippers. So, why the hell am I worried?
Both Anthony Davis and LeBron James are in the top 20 in both Usage Percentage and Minutes Per Game. This has already shown signs of negativity, and I believe that if this continues long term it will greatly hurt the Lakers playoff chances.
LA came out of the gates on a tear this year showing signs of dominance on the defensive end as well as a bullying attack in the paint of offense. Following the Lakers over the first month of the season, it was clear LeBron and the Lakers were out to prove a point and establish themselves as the top seed in the West. While they more than did that, I expected them to pull up on the reigns slightly and allow for the ball to spread out more and manage LeBron and AD’s minutes. That has not been the case and it is starting to ware on the team.
LeBron is coming off of his first significant injury in his career and Anthony Davis has struggled with durability (He’s played more than 70 games only twice in 7 years prior). This is a team that relies on it’s physicality, power, and ability to get out in transition. This play style over an 82 game regular season will take it’s toll.
The bench has really not solidified for LA, no one has really emerged as a 6th man or someone who Frank Vogel can entrust with the ball that can give LeBron or AD a break. There are solid players on this bench, but none of them are real playmakers or shot creators that you can believe in on both ends of the floor.
Kuzma is a finisher who doesn’t fit well on this team. Rondo is over the hill and routinely gets exposed on defense. Once you start getting down to Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels the bench becomes fairly underwhelming.
The Lakers are currently being outscored by 2.7 pts per 100 possessions when LeBron sits. That may not seem like the biggest problem, but it’s been a major reason for LeBron playing the minutes he has. The Lakers have routinely squandered 20 point leads when LeBron sits forcing him to come back in and right the ship.
Conversely, this has not been a problem for the rival Clippers who are routinely able to rest Paul George and Kawhi Leonard due to their incredible depth. Keeping PG and Kawhi healthy for the playoffs has been a priority for the Clippers and while this has resulted in a few losses, it overall hasn’t impacted them too negatively since their bench is regularly able to be relied upon.
I do expect that the Lakers front office will make a few moves to lessen the load on LeBron and AD, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
The Lakers will be one of the top destinations for buyout candidates, but a player of the necessary caliber to make a real difference with this issue is almost definitely going to have to be acquired through a trade.
LA has the capability of being the best team in the league and winning it all this year, but if these trends continue, I seriously doubt their viability past the first round of the playoffs.
These are just a few ideas I’d been ruminating on, I think they are all feasible but could require more draft assets to make happen. Do you agree or disagree with me? How do you feel about the Lakers currently? Let me know down below!