It’s been a few weeks without Lebron James, and the Lakers have looked…”great”, “exciting”, and at times a bit “lost”. However, nothing has fallen short of accountability, from both the staff and players. It's fair to say that the absence of Lebron James has not kept this team from being locked in. The Western Conference playoff race is still tight, and after losing to the likes of New York, Houston, and Dallas, in the middle of March, it has now made things even more complicated. The wrong loss could set you back four seeds, and the chances of becoming .500 or better are feeling unlikely. However, by the looks of it, they might not have to.
At this point of the season, everything has been up to coaching, and they’ve coached pretty well so far. The best way to put it, is that the rotations have been responsible. D’Angelo Russell has been known to get hot or cold, but that doesn’t have to be detrimental. Darvin Ham allows D’Angelo to play his game, but he also doesn’t give him the chance to shoot himself out of one. Despite shooting 5/17 from the field, and 0/6 from three, in the loss against the Mavericks. He has shot efficiently from the field overall since his arrival. The key to his success is building on that IQ he carries. Russell tends to create his own shots out of mismatches, and at the right time can be done well. However, when that isn’t working the backcourt of D’Angelo, along with Schroeder, and Reaves, gives him plenty of opportunity to defer when his game isn’t going. What D’Angelo has done differently this year, is find ways to impact the game without the ball in his hands. A lot of that comes from his constant movement throughout the offense, even if he isn’t involved.
The loss against Houston showed everyone something different, while most jumped to criticism about the deactivation of Anthony Davis. It was a great opportunity to see where the Lakers could use the extra help. Mo Bamba was an unexpected long term scratch, and a huge part of what the Lakers had in store for the offense. A big that can knock down shots, takes some of the double teams off of Davis. D’Angelo didn’t have the accessory he needed to run the pick and roll offense. Although, you have Weyen Gabriel, if Ham had decided to start him that night, they would lose their length off the bench. Starting Vando at center was the safest choice. Now, there is the right amount of depth from the Lakers guards, but the Rockets are young, and they have wing defenders to switch onto anyone who decides to run the pick and roll. As the regular season closes in, we should expect another big to add to the depth chart. There won't be a lot of options, but it is a necessary hire.
If someone were to ask, “If Lebron James were to return, is this team unbeatable?”. Honestly, I don’t know. It sounds nice, but it has been a handicap scenario for the organization over the last two seasons. The Lakers need to be better without Lebron James, and that means playing for this season, throughout the regular season, and playing for next season in this year's playoffs. Anthony Davis's performance since Lebron’s injury has been phenomenal. Averaging over 25 points per game, along with 13 rebounds, they can rely on his aggression to uplift them in big games, and the supporting cast can step up when he’s having a bad game. (The luxury of depth) Following the loss, the Lakers won against Orlando. It was a dig the entire way, but a perfect example of how deep this team can be when you need them. Austin Reaves led the team in scoring with 35 points. The next game, Darvin Ham made an adjustment to the starting line up. Beasley was moved to the bench, and Reaves took over the starting position. Creating a fast start for the Lakers offense, instead of playing behind. This allowed the bench to keep their 3 point shooting intact, and compete with the opposing team's bench.
The Lakers not only have to try to compete, but they have to prove they can run it back with this team next year. There are friendly contracts, upcoming free agents, and unexpected injuries surrounding the future of LA, however a championship team wins, in spite of everything. There’s a lot to look forward to in Los Angeles with or without Lebron James, and although I’m always betting on the team with. I’m not afraid to play with house money and see the journey of this current roster playing.
Contributor: Tyrell Winston (@wstsdty)
Editor: Josh Bhagratie (@jshyb_)