After a less-than-stellar 1-5 start to their 2022 NBA campaign, it’s clear that there are fit issues within the Lakers roster since it took six total contests for the team to register their first win. Albeit the win was against a healthy Denver Nuggets team, it’s clear that the Lakers roster still needs cohesiveness in order to thrive for an entire season.
Early Season Struggles
With three all-stars at the helm, the Lakers roster is competing for a championship. Although, at this rate they may be competing just to get into the play-in tournament. In LeBron James led teams, the issue seems to always be fit and his reinforcements. After winning a championship in 2020, how close is this Lakers roster to another NBA Finals berth with its current roster?
It’s easy to view Westbrook as a scapegoat and see where his fit skews this team, however, the availability and competitive level of play from star forward Anthony Davis has come into question in recent light.
NBA analyst Steven A. Smith spoke about this on ESPN.
“I came on the air talking about how Anthony Davis was a top-seven player. I take it back. He don’t look like he wants to go anywhere near the basket. My point is, you’re too big, too skilled, too talented. What has happened to Anthony Davis?”
Former NBA player Jamal Crawford has also mentioned fit when talking bout the Los Angeles Lakers roster on the Through the Wire podcast.
“It has to be fit. Russ is a great player. He just doesn’t fit with this team.” Crawford said. He goes on to mention that if it takes trading away Anthony Davis to get a younger star next to LeBron James, he would do it.
It’s clear that James-led championship teams need good shooters. His 2012, 2013, and 2016 squads ranked 10th, 2nd, and 7th respectively in 3-point percentage during their runs according to Statmuse. For James’ 2020 Lakers squad, while they ranked 21st in 3-point percentage that year, they made up for it with suffocating defense, ranking 11th in steals and 5th in blocks. That team was tantalizing on defense, boasting the top defensive rating among all teams that season at 107.1.
Through six games so far this NBA season, the Lakers roster is dead last in 3-point percentage and while they are currently holding the third-highest defensive rating according to Statmuse, it isn’t equating to wins.
There’s no question that LeBron James is the engine of this Lakers team. At 37 years old, James shouldn’t be burdening the load of his team and willing them to the playoffs. If the Lakers want to stay competitive and keep James around and make use of his golden years, this roster will need a lot more than a re-tooling and it will start with some trades.
Westbrook Takes his Talents to South Beach
The Miami Heat went to the NBA Finals to challenge the Lakers in the 2020 NBA bubble. Many were surprised to see that team make it that far. We’ve had our fair share of Jimmy Butler playoff moments since then, however, it feels like the Heat has taken a step back after acquiring Kyle Lowry and seeing a dip in production from Duncan Robinson. In 2021 the team ranked 10th in offensive rating and during the playoffs, it felt like Butler was doing all the damage on his own. This team has a stifling defensive identity, ranking fifth in defensive rating in 2021 according to Statmuse.
Through seven games during the 2022 NBA season, the team sports a lowly 110.8 offensive rating on the year, ranking 22nd overall in the league. The team is struggling to find offensive production outside of Butler, who is also the heart of the Heat defense. In order to add an offensive spark to their game, they may need to ship out their point guard and some youth to inject some high-energy offense into their roster.
By trading away Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson, the Heat fill an offensive void with Westbrook, surround their potential new point guard with shooters in Tyler Herro, Max Strus, and one of his former teammates Victor Oladipo, and keep the energy high on their team.
Miami Heat Receive: PG Russell Westbrook
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG Kyle Lowry, SF Duncan Robinson
Miami Heat Potential Starting Lineup: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Tyler Herro, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Caleb Martin, C Bam Adebayo
Los Angeles Lakers Potential Starting Lineup: PG Kyle Lowry, SG Patrick Beverly, SF Duncan Robinson, PF LeBron James, C Anthony Davis
The Timberwolves Make Another Blockbuster Trade
The Minnesota Timberwolves swung for the fences and are still in the middle of seeing the value of that trade. After acquiring defensive ace Rudy Gobert, the Wolves find themselves in 7th place in the Western Conference, boasting a 4-3 record.
Gobert leads the team in rebounds with 14.7 per contest, which is a big reason why the team ranks 1st in defensive rebounds so far, according to Statmuse. The team has a fine balance of offense and defense, with third-year player Anthony Edwards leading the team in points with 23.0. The team has experimented with D’Angelo Russell at point guard since 2020, and while the fit hasn’t been terrible, he hasn’t recaptured his magic from his first and only all-star selection in 2019. He is still averaging 6.0 assist per game on the season.
Although it has been noted that all-star forward/center Karl Anthony Towns and Russell are close friends, it may be time to break up the duo to bring a championship opportunity to the franchise. Shipping out Russell for Westbrook will ultimately give Edwards and Towns a worthy distributor while taking some eyes off them on offense. Although widely criticized, Westbrook has averaged 13.4 points per game, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists during his last 5 games with the Lakers, and is only two years removed from averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11. 7 assists per game. The chaos that Westbrook brings on offense just brings more space to Edwards and Towns, who finally has a competent rebounder in Gobert to clean up any messes that may ensue.
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Russell Westbrook, 2023 Second Round Pick (via Chicago), 2023 2nd Round Pick
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: D’Angelo Russell, Taurean Prince
Minnesota Timberwolves Potential Starting Lineup: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Anthony Edwards, SF Kyle Anderson, PF Karl Anthony Towns, C Rudy Gobert
Los Angeles Lakers Potential Starting Lineup: PG D’Angelo RCussell, SG Patrick Beverly, SF Taurean Prince, PF LeBron James, C Anthony Davis
All-NBA talent for All-NBA talent
Anthony Davis has unquestionable all-NBA talent. However, he holds a questionable status for the majority of games each NBA season. It may be time to move on from Davis to get another all-NBA talent next to James.
A proposed trade to the Raptors isn’t out of the question. The Raptors are in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Siakam is the undoubted leader of that team, however alone he can’t move the needle for his team. The Raptors have young talent and a new blossoming all-star guard in Fred Van Vleet. A swap of Siakam for Davis could be enough of a gamble for the Raptors to make a jump in the East.
Siakam could slot in at either forward spot, supporting James as a primary scorer for the Lakers. He also gives the Lakers something Davis cannot: availability. Siakam has played at least 67% of games during his entire career with the Raptors. In 2020-2021, he played only 56 games, however he has a stronger availability compared to Davis. He isn’t the defensive stopper that Davis is, however he is an above average defensive player, according to Statmuse.
Toronto Raptors Receive: Anthony Davis, Kendrick Nunn
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Toronto Raptors Potential Starting Lineup: PG Fred Van Vleet, SG Gary Trent Jr., SF OG Anunoby, PF Anthony Davis, C Chris Boucher
Los Angeles Lakers Roster Potential Starting Lineup: PG Patrick Beverly, SG Lonnie Walker IV, SF LeBron James, PF Pascal Siakam, C Damian Jones
Let us know your thoughts on the Los Angeles Lakers roster in the comments below!