As we enter the new year, the LA Lakers are in a much different position than they were a year ago from today. Standing at 26-7 and first place in the Western Conference, the Lakers are in primed position to reclaim the championship that has eluded them since 2010. Last decade to be exact. Ha. A New Year joke. Anyway. Exactly how good is this team? Well, on December 19th in a much anticipated matchup between the leagues top two ranked teams, the Lakers looked flat against the Milwaukee Bucks, and got absolutely hammered most of the game. Wasn’t a good look. Rewind, AND fast forward after that game, they’re 0-2 against their cross town rivals, Los Angeles Clippers. So, what are their expectations realistically? As a two part series, I’ll be taking an extensive look at this team, what moves they may need to make in the trade market, and what exactly can this team accomplish this season. Buckle up.
How good is this team
On paper, this Lakers team looks unstoppable, right? LeBron James. Anthony Davis. Avery Bradley. Rajon Rondo. Let me stop. You know the roster. This roster, strictly judging by names, seems to be the most talented team in the league. So, let’s use the eye test first. They play extremely effectively, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They’re sixth in the league when it comes to offensive effectiveness. I’d say that’s pretty good, right? The LA Lakers also average the third most assists per game. You can mostly thank your King and Savior, LeBron James for that. More on him in a second.
Style of play
The style of this teams play is also critical to their success. They come across as a slow paced team to the eye, but they’re actually a fairly fast paced team. They have this style of simply wearing you down with their play. Most teams just out athletic you, but not the Lakers. Their tough defense, and high basketball IQ mentally drains you throughout the game. This is why the LA Lakers seem to have so much success against younger teams. The Lakers often fall behind against younger, more athletic teams. However, by the time second half comes, score wise, it’s a much different case. Why? This team is SMART, and has a high basketball IQ. You known how there’s always an older guy at the gym that just gives BUCKETS to everyone? That. That’s this Lakers team. Old guys at the gym giving away free buckets.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continues to be an absolute SNIPER from the three point line. He’s right at 43% with 3 3PA per game. Uh. That’s what you call SNIPER numbers, folks. Disagree? How about this. He’s shooting 71% from 3 in his last four games! WHAT!? Watching him completely turn his game around from early in the season has been yet another bright spot for this team. If you recall, Laker Twitter absolutely destroyed KCP during the early half of the season for his poor play. Running joke is they bullied him badly on Twitter, he had no other choice BUT to improve his game. He’s done a fantastic job of bouncing back from poor play, and elevating his game to a new level.
Let’s talk about the GOAT shall we? Oh don’t worry, I’ll be making another piece soon about how LeBron is YOUR GOAT, and it’s not even close. Until then, let’s talk about his numbers this year, and how valuable he has been this far. He’s averaging 11 assists per game. Let me say that again. LeBron James, at age 35 and in his 17th NBA season, is averaging ELEVEN ASSISTS per game. That’s absolutely mind blowing. However, could it be a blessing and a curse? You’ll see a lot of people question the usage of Lebron James. No. Stop that. You don’t know what you’re talking about. He’s sitting at around 35 minutes per game. For a 35 year old, I’ll take that. Obviously, Frank Vogul, and this amazing coaching staff that consist of Jason Kidd, and Lionel Hollins, has done a fantastic job of managing the King’s minutes this year. This is absolutely vital that they continue to do that for the LA Lakers success, especially going into the postseason.
Ah yes. Kyle. Kuzma. The line young player to survive the mass exodus handled by
LeBron James, Rob Pelinka. Many fans, including me, were excited about him coming back. He really had a break out yeah last year, and seemed as though he could for sure be that missing piece in the next great Lakers super team. WELP. No. Not yet. Not now. He’s been, mediocre at best. Honestly, that’s being modest. Alright, let’s be logical before we throw Kyle Kuzma to the dogs, and not demand he be traded. Yes, he’s been recovering from an ankle injury he suffered while attending USA Basketball camp over the Summer. However, this plays into the problem that he cannot consistently stay healthy, and contribute to a winning team. Has he had some great games on the floor? Absolutely. Look at his Christmas Day game against the Clippers. However, his consistency has failed him thus far this year.
So we have a sample size of what this team can be. We’ve seen how impressive they can be, and how woeful they can be. So, what’s the verdict? Clearly, that’s an answer for part II. However, I can tell you this, this team is exciting to watch. They clearly enjoy each being around each other, and oh, THEY’RE IN FIRST PLACE! Let’s enjoy this ride, because the last few years have NOT been kind to Laker fandom. Be on the lookout for part II of The Rebirth of the LA Lakers.
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*featured image courtesy of Getty Images*