LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries may have been a blessing in disguise for the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, losing your two best players is definitely not a good thing; however, it may have helped the Lakers grow as a team in the long run.
Davis’ last game was on February 14 against the Denver Nuggets. He was forced out of the game due to achilles tendinosis and a calf strain. James’ last game was on March 20 when he was forced out of the game against the Atlanta Hawks with an ankle injury.
According to ESPN’s senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Davis’ return isn’t too far away.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries naturally led to the Lakers losing games and dropping to the fifth seed; however, the time the team has spent without their two stars has had its positives.
1. LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ Injuries Showed Who can step up
One of the most important things to have in a championship team is other role players who are capable of stepping up and having big nights throughout the playoffs.
Last year for the Lakers, Rajon Rondo, who is now a Clipper, was the player who stepped up the most for the Lakers, quickly becoming their third most important player.
As a result of LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries we have seen Lakers players showing they can step up.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is undoubtedly one of the most valuable players on the Lakers roster. He tends to be frustrating for Lakers fans from time to time as he can be inconsistent in the regular season.
Although last year, he showed he is capable of stepping up in the 2019-20 playoffs run. He has also been one of the players that showed he is capable of going off when needed.
The best example of this is against the Miami Heat when the Lakers lost in a tough game. Caldwell-Pope scored 28 points whilst shooting 55% from the field. He went 6-11 from the three-point line.
Of course, the Lakers were missing not just James and Davis, but also Wesley Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, and Marc Gasol. With their full roster available, Caldwell-Pope is most likely not going to take 20 shots.
However, if the team needs him to up his scoring in the playoffs, he should definitely feel more comfortable doing it. Of course, the Lakers lost the game, but that came down to the team not having a closer, the fact they were in the game against a strong Miami Heat team shows enough.
Another person who showed they can step up is Marc Gasol. After LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries, the Lakers’ defense was expected to worsen.
Although it has, the Lakers are still first in defensive efficiency, and he has a defensive rating of 103.2. Sure individual defensive rating doesn’t tell the full story of how good a defender is, having a good rating can still prove a defender is doing what they need to.
Most of the frustrations Lakers fans felt with Gasol was probably his lack of rim protection, especially after having Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee last year who were great shot blockers. Gasol is also a lot slower than he used to be, which is natural as he is 36.
However, whilst Davis has been out, Gasol’s defense has looked good and he could become a reliable backup center in the playoffs.
The most notable game that Gasol had during this period has to be against the Toronto Raptors. He had 13 points, shooting 6-9 from the field, and also had 9 rebounds.
Gasol will prove to be a valuable member of the team in playoff time if he can step up when needed. He did just that against Toronto when the pressure was on after LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries could be seen as a blessing in disguise because it has made the Lakers grow as a team.
They have felt the effect of losing their two best players on both sides of the court, but it has also made them have to rely on their other teammates much more and improve as individual players. One of the individuals that have improved is Dennis Schroder.
Schroder has emerged as another leader in this strong Lakers team. He is averaging 7.3 assists a game since James’ injury.
His new responsibility has led to more turnovers, which is expected; however, the turnovers aren’t worrying because he will be on the ball less when James comes back. He has also elevated his scoring, but his assists have been what has impressed the most.
The Lakers gaining someone else who can lead on the court whilst James isn’t playing is very valuable for the playoffs. They are now used to Schroder being a playmaker without James on the court at all and can trust him, even more, to do it when James is out of the rotation.
Due to them playing important minutes with the rest of the roster, they are seeing the value everyone brings to the team and how hard they work, not just James, Davis, and Schroder. This helps build more chemistry and respect in the team than only seeing it practice and limited minutes.
3. More Minutes & More Oppurtunities
Once again, it has to be emphasized that LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries are not a good thing. There are just some ways it has helped the Lakers.
One of these ways is its giving other players more minutes and opportunities to show what they are capable of. Right now the Lakers want wins; the pressure is on. Whoever takes this opportunity and helps the team win could show Frank Vogel they deserve a role in the playoffs.
Players like Alfonzo McKinnie and Devontae Cacok. We saw McKinnie come off the bench against the Miami Heat. The Heat looked like they were going to establish a strong lead in the fourth quarter but McKinnie came off the bench, hit a long pull-up two, and cut the lead to six.
These small things don’t go unnoticed to Vogel. Because of LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries, those small things aren’t as small anymore.
Players that aren’t high up in the rotation are being given the opportunity to show they can offer the team important minutes.
The positive effects LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries have had on the roster definitely doesn’t mean they aren’t needed as soon as possible.
The Lakers have so far lost seven games and won six since James’ injury. This tough time can be called a blessing in disguise as it helped improve on the Lakers already great chemistry, its given opportunities to players who don’t get a lot of minutes and led to other players showing they can step up when needed.
So whilst LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injuries have helped the Lakers grow as a team, they definitely need one of their stars back as soon as possible in order to keep their fifth seed or push for the fourth seed.
James has alluded to a possible return. After posting a picture of himself and Davis, the 2019-20 Finals MVP said: “The weatherman says the weather is changing soon and it predicts a thunderstorm is coming. Folks prepare and take the proper caution measures to stay safe.”
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