Lakers: Can They Turn Into Contenders?

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Things do not look good for the Los Angeles Lakers. Apart from a big failure, there is no other way to look at their offseason moves.

Most people saw the Russell Westbrook trade as an unnatural fit. Even then, most people didn’t think the Lakers would be this bad.

This does not mean it has all been Westbrook’s fault, it just means that the Lakers are going to find it harder to build chemistry and improve.

Can the Lakers somehow turn into contenders? Well, it’s very unlikely the Lakers can become contenders this year.

However, they can definitely be a very dangerous team to anyone they run into during the playoffs or Play-In tournament.

They Need Time

Time is a boring answer but it’s truthful. Lakers fans may wish for trading Westbrook for a different star.

However, the fact of the matter is that it will be difficult to move Westbrook’s contract in a deal where the Lakers get something back that will help them contend.

They lost a big part of their great defense in the trade, with Kyle Kuzma, who averages 8.7 rebounds at the moment, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

That was a lot to give up only to move on from Westbrook.

Damian Lillard is the dream for most fans, but the Lakers have no picks worthwhile, so why would a team want to rebuild trade with them?

The only thing the Lakers can do is try to get the most out of this current roster.

Everyone in the NBA is dealing with injuries, but that does not minimize the effect of injuries on the Lakers.

The return of Anthony Davis has been massive for the Lakers. Davis has been missed and has been dominant in his return.

He has only played 33 games this season, which naturally means the Lakers aren’t going to be able to play their best basketball.

He is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and unstoppable on the other end when he’s playing at his best.

In his last six games, Davis is averaging 28 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.8 blocks. He’s looking better than he did at the start of the season and will be massive if the Lakers want to make a playoff push.

LeBron James has also now come back from injury and made his return with a triple-double against the New York Knicks. James had 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

We know James and Davis can play great together; they have a championship to prove it. When you add a new star to that mix it is going to take time for all three to play at a high level together.

Especially, when that person’s style of basketball doesn’t exactly fit well with your roster. Westbrook averages 18.7 field goal attempts a game and has shot 43% across his whole career.

One thing that does need to be remembered is that Westbrook is an incredible player, one of the best point guards to play the game. He simply just doesn’t fit.

All three players have the drive to succeed and all three are All-NBA caliber players. They are too good to not be dangerous in the playoffs.

Yes, there have been many games hard to watch. However, there is still a lot of time, and it should be remembered that the ‘big three’ have not played many games together.

For a team like the Brooklyn Nets, their ‘big three’ haven’t played much together either. However, they have a much more natural fit than what the Lakers have right now.

That’s why this reasoning applies more to the Lakers than any other team. It is clear that they made a mistake in their offseason moves.

Those that saw positives initially at the roster changes, definitely now look back on them as negatives. However, as time continues it wouldn’t be wise to rule out the Lakers in a playoff situation.

If the Lakers are able to make the playoffs or Play-Ins, they will be dangerous because they’ve got three great players.

You especially cannot count out a team with LeBron James.

Trust Westbrook

There’s one thing that is harming the Lakers’ chemistry, and that is Vogel not trusting Westbrook.

Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer, a former MVP. Benching him in clutch periods sends a bad message to the team and him.

Vogel is essentially saying that he is a liability on the court when they need to win. How can a team work well together when they have their star point guard being treated like that.

This is not to say that Vogel has been unwarranted in his decision, there have been reasons to take Westbrook off the floor. The consequences of such a decision are just too big.

Westbrook is not used to playing at the pace the Lakers want to play at. The pace that Anthony Davis and James have been playing at.

The Lakers brought him in knowing his game and the pace he plays at. They even praised it as one of the things he brings to the team.

The Lakers need to do more to allow Westbrook to be his best self. The trade was a mistake, we’ve established that.

However, what’s done is done, so now you need to make the best of a bad situation. Are they Lakers truly allowing Westbrook to be the best version of himself?

It is their responsibility to find a way to get the best out of Westbrook because he does bring a lot to the team. He is a great player, people need to be reminded of this.

Allow Westbrook to keep attacking the basket and be ruthless like he has been his entire career. Let him play at his pace.

That’s part of his playmaking, he creates openings naturally when he has the license to be himself.

James is playing great, and so has Davis since his return. Westbrook is struggling, and he doesn’t seem comfortable in this offense.

Vogel needs to help him feel comfortable, the Lakers won’t go far without Westbrook playing at a high level. Especially after trading and not resigning vital parts of their defense.

That’s one thing that time won’t fix however is their defense. Westbrook’s off-ball defense is concerning, along with many other members of the team.

It’s hard to blame anything but a lack of effort when it comes to the defense the Lakers play. The Lakers need to lock in on the other end, even if they don’t have the defenders they once had.

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