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If there was a silver lining in the Los Angeles Lakers’ discouraging loss to the Houston Rockets last night, it was continued good play of Kyle Kuzma, who posted 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 30 minutes.
As Frank Vogel and the Lakers look for a way to break out of the shooting slump they’re currently mired in and allay doubts about their ability to win the championship, the obvious solution is to start their three best players. The only positive development the Lakers can take away from their first five seeding games has been Kyle Kuzma’s emergence as the team’s third best player, who should remain to be in the starting lineup with LeBron and AD.
Kyle Kuzma’s team-best three-point shooting and dramatically improved defense are perfect fits to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis and what the Lakers’ starting lineup needs to recapture its lost momentum. In the five bubble games played, Kyle’s averaged 14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 27.3 minutes while still shooting a strong 46.0% from the field, 46.2% from deep, and 70.0% from the line.
Kuzma has earned the opportunity to start for the Lakers. Along with Waiters and Caruso, he’s one of only three Lakers’ players to have posted a positive net rating and cumulative plus/minus for the five seeding games. His improved shot selection and defense also show Kyle’s learned how to play off the ball and allow the game to come to him, which are critical traits to be able to play with superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
With just three ‘warm up’ games left for the Lakers before the playoffs begin, Vogel needs to make final decisions on his rotations and give his playoff lineups some time on the court to get comfortable playing together. If the coach is going to start his three best players — James, Davis, and Kuzma — then the big question then becomes who should be the other two Lakers starters? I think that decision should depend upon the matchups.
If the Lakers play a team with a traditional center, then it could make sense to start McGee, keep Davis at power forward to limit his low post banging and pull the opposing center out of the paint, and bench KCP or Green. LeBron is essentially playing point guard on offense and Kuzma continues to show the athleticism and ability to defend bigger shooting guards as he demonstrated defending the Rockets’ James Harden in last night’s game.
If the Lakers play a small ball team like the Rockets or a team with a stretch five center like the Nuggets, then it could be smart to start Anthony Davis at the five since he has the skill set to defend players out to the 3-point line. The Lakers would then start Caldwell-Pope and Green at guard, keeping Waiters and Caruso as the guard tandem off the bench, which would need their productivity since Kuzma would mostly be playing with the starters.
Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris would also get minutes off the bench and maybe Talen Horton-Tucker. Based on the results so far, Quinn Cook, JR Smith, Devontae Cacok, or Kostas Antetokounmpo will likely be DNP’s. That means a 10 or 11 player rotation of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Danny Green, Dion Waiters, Alex Caruso, Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, and maybe THT.
The Lakers have not played well in the bubble so far, which puts them in a worrisome position with just three ‘warm up’ games until the playoffs. The team’s 3-point shooting and once great momentum has abandoned them. They’re still waiting to see Playoff LeBron and questions about his groin are concerning. Anthony Davis’ play has been a roller coaster and the team’s offensive stats for 3-point shooting and team offense rank dead last.
Right now, the Lakers’ championship hopes are in serious danger. They need something to shake them out of their malaise and inspire them to play better. Starting James, Davis, and Kuzma could be the spark they need.
While the Lakers’ coaching staff and players say all the team needs to do to solve their current dilemma is start hitting their shots, they’re running out of time to fix their offensive woes with just four games before the playoffs.
Adding urgency to the situation, the frigid shooting Lakers have to take on the three-ball crazy Houston Rockets tonight without superstar LeBron James, who’s taking a load management night off to rest a strained groin. Tonight’s game will be a major challenge for the poor 3-point shooting Lakers as they are going to have to make a reasonable number of threes just to keep pace with Rockets and have any chance of winning the game.
The good news is LeBron’s night off should give head coach Frank Vogel the opportunity to start Kyle Kuzma, the only Laker who is shooting the three-ball well, having made 11 of 22 threes during the first four games for 50%. Kuzma’s hot hand from three could be the boost the Lakers’ starting lineup needs and could pave the way for head coach Vogel to finally make the decision to start Anthony Davis at the five to win the championship.
JaVale McGee has been a major bubble bust. He has a team worst -19.6 net rating the first four games and has seen his points, rebounds, steals, and blocks decrease while his minutes, personal fouls, and turnovers increased. There’s a case to be made that starting McGee against the small ball Rockets would be unwise even if he were playing well. Imagining a struggling McGee trying to defend one of Houston’s stretch fours is totally ludicrous.
While Frank Vogel’s still likely to start McGee, this could be the first step towards a new lineup for the playoffs. It could even have been a way for the coach to tinker more with a Davis at the five and Kuzma at the four offense? Vogel may have hinted at that yesterday when he was asked if Lakers were considering a possible lineup change. The frustrated coach responded: “We’ll see. We’re looking at everything, but it’s bigger than that.”
Moving Kuzma into the starting lineup could be the spark that jumpstarts the Lakers’ starting lineup’s shooting woes and ignites the fire to move Anthony Davis into the starting center role as the team starts the playoffs. While Vogel’s been hesitant to change his starting lineup, Kuzma’s hot shooting and greatly improved defense could force him to make the move. It’s a smart move that could make the Lakers a more dangerous team.
I’m looking for the Lakers to shoot lights out tonight. While 3-point shooting has never been their strength, they’re certainly a better shooting team than they’ve showed so far in the bubble. Law of averages should rule here. Meanwhile, the defensive matchups are going to force Frank Vogel to play Anthony Davis at center more than usual because neither McGee or Howard are comfortable or effective guarding players beyond the 3-point line.
This game against the Rockets could be a harbinger of what’s to come for the Lakers. They need to come out hungry and poised and play and shoot well. Hopefully, Kuzma and AD will excel and show Vogel the path forward.
While they beat the Clippers in the Battle for LA and clinched top seed in the West versus the Jazz, the NBA restart has been a struggle for the Lakers as LeBron James has looked mortal and their 3-point shooting problematic.
With just five regular season ‘seeding’ games left before the playoffs begin, the time may have come for Frank Vogel to shake up the Lakers’ starting lineup by replacing longtime starter JaVale McGee with Anthony Davis. While Vogel’s been steadfast in not changing his starting lineup all season, the Lakers’ lackluster play in the first three ‘restart’ games has exposed serious issues that could be better addressed now than in the playoffs.
At the top of the list is the poor performance by the Lakers’ starting lineup of Caldwell-Pope, Green, James, Davis, and McGee, who struggled mightily and put the Lakers in deep holes at the start of games and second halves. The combination of Caldwell-Pope’s and Green’s horrid 3-point shooting and McGee’s clogging the lane on offense allowed opponents to suffocate the Lakers’ offense by doubling Davis and packing the paint against James.
With the #1 seed in the West locked up, Frank Vogel should use the remaining five ‘seeding’ games to experiment with a new starting lineup featuring Anthony Davis at the five and possibly Kyle Kuzma at the four.
Here are four reasons why the Lakers should start Anthony Davis at the five:
1. The Lakers’ best lineups have been with Anthony Davis at center.
There’s never been any question the Lakers’ best lineup is one with Anthony Davis at the five. It’s the only lineup with five players who can shoot the three and thus the ideal lineup to create spacing to unleash LeBron and AD. The win against the Jazz last night was a perfect example. After a tight battle the first 30 minutes, the Laker broke the game open midway through the third quarter when they pulled McGee and went with AD at the five.
2. The Lakers’ worst lineups have been with JaVale McGee at center.
The starting lineup of Caldwell-Pope, Green, James, Davis, and McGee played 34 minutes, three times more than any other 5-player lineup in the last three games, and posted a dismal -27 net rating and -21 plus/minus. They were not only outscored to start all three games but also to start the second halves. The problem is JaVale McGee, who has a dreadful -26 net rating and -21 plus/minus for the three games just suffocates the offense.
3. Starting Anthony Davis would enable the Lakers to start Kyle Kuzma.
The season restart has resurrected Kyle Kuzma’s future as a Laker. Kuz has posted a+10.2 net rating and +19 plus/minus for the three games while averaging 13.7 points, 4.0 boards, and 1.3 assists in 28.3 minutes per game. Besides elite defense against Kawhi and Siacom, Kuzma has also been the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter, hitting 9 of 17 threes in the first three games for 52.9%. Replacing McGee with Davis opens the door to start Kuzma.
4. Starting Anthony Davis is the best way to unleash LeBron James.
One of the most troublesome issues in the Lakers’ first three games has been how mortal LeBron has looked at times, primarily because opposing teams are clogging the lane to turn him into a playmaker rather than scorer. Surrounding him with four shooters has always been the formula to win championships with LeBron James. It’s time for the Lakers to remember this and start Anthony Davis at the five and open up the court for LeBron.
No NBA team has ever faced as challenging a path to the championship as the Orlando bubble. Now is not the time for Frank Vogel to be overly patient or hesitant to make moves to solve obvious issues. It’s time for AD to start.
While basketball experts would think it crazy to change starters after just two games, the Lakers’ starting lineup has been a statistical nightmare in the season restart with just six games remaining before the playoffs begin.
While a veteran coach like Frank Vogel is unlikely to make a drastic move, all five Lakers’ starters posted negative net ratings while all five Lakers’ reserves had positive net ratings the first two games of the season restart. While the Lakers won’t make wholesale changes to their starting lineup, it would be foolish for the coaching staff to ignore this red flag and not start considering possible changes in who starts or at least in minutes played.
After all, the clock is ticking and the Lakers only have six more regular season ‘seeding’ games to make changes to get ready for the playoffs. Here are the Lakers’ player net rating for first two games per NBA.com:
The challenge for Frank Vogel and his staff is to create a starting lineup that complements superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which requires more than anything else players who can hit open shots and play defense. From the above stats, we can see the problem with the Lakers’ starting lineups the last two games was offense, not defense. Per NBA.com, Lakers’ starters had a poor 66.7 offensive rating and good 102.2 defensive rating.
The Lakers’ 3-point shooting stats the last two games confirms the problem. As a team, the Lakers’ shot just 27.6% from deep, 29th worst out of 30 teams. Opponents scored 27 more points from deep in the last two games. The Lakers’ poor 3-point shooting allowed the Clippers and the Raptors to clog the middle and keep LeBron James and Anthony Davis from getting to the rim, which was a big factor leading to their subpar performances.
Lakers’ superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a duo average 52.1 points per game on 50.1% from the field but in the last two games were held to just 42.0 points per game and just 38.3% field goal percentage. While it’s easy to write off the outcome as James and Davis having subpar games, the truth is the poor shooting performances of their teammates in the Lakers’ starting lineup was likely the reason for their subpar games.
So what are the options the Lakers’ coaching staff should consider? The obvious solution is surround LeBron and AD with better shooting. Here are Lakers’ players 3-point shooting stats the last two games per NBA.com:
It’s obvious the problem with the starting lineup the last two games has been the shooting of guard Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Combined, the two have made only 6 of 28 threes for a dismal 21.4%. Caldwell-Pope and Green are the Lakers’ best 3-point shooters so it would be foolish to replace them as starters but the team shouldn’t hesitate to put them on a short lease or fewer minutes if they continue to shoot poorly.
The NBA is a copycat league and the problem facing the Lakers is teams are going to increasingly clog the middle and challenge the Lakers to make shots from beyond the arc so 3-point shooting is going to become critical. The Lakers cannot afford to give players who aren’t shooting well extended time to fix the problem. The playoffs are right around the corner, which means Green and Caldwell-Pope need to start hitting their threes right now.
Should Green or KCP continue to miss their threes, Frank Vogel should not hesitate to start or give Dion Waiters more minutes. While he’s only shot 3 of 12 from deep so far, he’s been a 37.7% 3-point shooter the last two years. While the Lakers envisioned Waiters as the playmaker and shot creator for the second unit when LeBron rests, Dion has posted a better two-player net rating with both James and Davis than either Green or Caldwell-Pope.
Finally, the other option the Lakers have should consider if KCP and/or Green don’t start hitting their threes is moving Anthony Davis to the five to replace JaVale McGee and inserting Kyle Kuzma into the starting lineup. Kuz has already earned a role in the Lakers closing rotation and is playing the second most minutes after LeBron. At some point, Kuzma and Waiters are going to become key players in the Lakers championship quest.s0-
Frank Vogel’s been steadfast in keeping the same starting lineup all year but the playoffs are different and the Lakers need to watch Green’s and KCP’s shooting woes closely and adjust sooner rather than later if necessary.
While the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis were outplayed by the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Lakers were still able to eke out a 103–101 victory because of the play of Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters.
While it’s just one game, the top-rated two-player lineup who played more than 20 minutes for the Lakers in Thursday night’s opening season restart game against the Clippers was the duo of Dion Waiters and Kyle Kuzma. That’s right. Dion Waiters and Kyle Kuzma. Better than LeBron James and any other Lakers player. Better than Anthony Davis and any other Lakers player. In fact, far better than even LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Waiters and Kuzma’s net rating of 36.5 (offensive rating of 131.8 less defensive rating of 95.3) was the best of the six Lakers’ two-player lineups that were on the court for more than 20 minutes against the Clippers.
Here’s the Lakers two-player lineup results from NBA.com:
We wrote a few days ago ‘How Kuzma and Waiters Breaking Out Could Change Lakers’ Offseason Plans!’ and Thursday night’s game showed just how critical Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters could be in the Clippers win. Despite a subpar game from LeBron (other than his last minute heroics on offense and defense) and the Clippers outscoring the Lakers by 15 points from deep, Kuzma and Waiters were key factors in the team’s triumph.
To produce a game best Lakers two-player net rating of 36.5, Dion Waiters and Kyle Kuzma obviously had to have equally impressive individual games both offensively and defensively, which is exactly what they each did. Waiters posted a team best net rating of 36.5 (offensive rating of 131.8 less defensive rating of 95.3) while Kuzma contributed a team third best net rating of 22.8 (offensive rating of 116.4 less defensive rating of 101.5).
Here are the advanced player stats for Waiters and Kuzma from NBA.com:
The continued stellar play off the bench by Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters has helped fill the Lakers’ desperate roster need from earlier in the season to find a missing third scorer, second playmaker, and elite wing defender. The impact Waiters and Kuzma had in the Lakers big win over the Clippers is confirmed by their team best and second best plus/minus ratings for the game. Waiters posted a +17 and Kuzma a +12 plus/minus for the game.
Here are the traditional player stats for Waiters and Kuzma from NBA.com:
Kyle Kuzma posted 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 32 minutes with a team second best +12 plus/minus while hitting 4 of 8 (50%) from the field, 4 of 7 (57%) from beyond the arc, and 4 of 5 (80%) on the free throw line. Kuzma’s impact went beyond offense as he emerged as the Lakers best defender against Kawhi Leonard in the second half, holding him to just 1 of 5 from the field and forcing him to get rid of the ball numerous times.
Dion Waiters contributed 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes with a team best +17 plus/minus while shooting 5 of 10 (50%) from the field despite only hitting 1 of 6 (17%) threes and not getting to the line. Waiters ability to beat his man and get into the paint caused havoc to the Clippers’ defense and continued the guard’s campaign to earn a permanent spot in the Lakers rotation not only for this season and but going forward.
The coronavirus bubble has transformed the 2019–20 NBA season into an unprecedented challenge that’s given Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters golden opportunities that they might never have had to become unsung heroes. Fortunately for the Lakers, they both seem to be relishing the challenge.
Fans of the triumphant Lakers and shorthanded Clippers both had good reasons to be excited about how their teams played in last night’s season restart but the game’s biggest takeaway was the evolution of Kyle Kuzma.
We noted how Kuzma was finally healthy, had fixed his broken 3-point shot, and was now featuring higher percentage spot-up threes vs. more difficult threes off the bounce but last night he showcased his refocused defense. Kyle’s elite individual defense on Kawhi Leonard, especially in the second half, was as important to the Lakers 103–101 win as his 16 points, 7 boards, 2 dimes, and 4 of 7 shooting from deep in 31.7 starter level minutes.
That Kuz played the third most minutes after LeBron James and Anthony Davis and was on the floor for all of the fourth quarter except for 82 seconds showed how critical Vogel thought he was to the Lakers’ victory. While Vogel gave Kyle a brief rest with 3:51 left in the game, he rushed him back with just 2:29 left to finish the game with LeBron and AD, a vote of confidence by the coach of the need for Kuzma to close the game.
But Vogel wasn’t rushing Kuzma back in the game because of his offense. He wanted Kuz to close the game because of his defense, specifically against Clippers’ superstar Kawhi Leonard, who traditionally torches the Lakers. “Exceptional tonight. He’s had some other strong performances. I don’t know if it was the best. It’s right up there. But in particular, when he was switched onto Kawhi, he had some good possessions,” said coach Vogel.
So what does this mean for the Lakers? First, the evolution of Kyle Kuzma’s game at both ends of the court says he may have finally found the blueprint for how to succeed playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Coach Frank Vogel was ecstatic about Kuzma’s performance alongside LeBron and AD. “When we have A.D. at the five, if he can perform like that on the defensive end, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Vogel said.
The big problem Kyle Kuzma’s struggled with since the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis last summer was how to fit in a lineup when the Lakers had superstar starters at the small and power forward positions he played. Ironically, the solution the Lakers could be forced to adopt is moving Anthony Davis from power forward to center to make room for Kyle Kuzma at power forward, which ultimately could make the Lakers a better team.
While Vogel will continue to start JaVale McGee at center and give Dwight Howard minutes at the five, there’s no question the Lakers need more Anthony Davis at the five against elite teams like the Bucks and Clippers. Just like back in March when the Lakers took down the Buck and Clippers in a weekend sweep, AD played half of the game’s 48 minutes and 24 of his 35 minutes at center, usually with Kyle Kuzma alongside him at the four.
Beyond making the Lakers better built to compete against the Bucks and Clippers, the evolution of Kyle Kuzma offensively and defensively could negate the need for the Lakers to seek a blockbuster trade this offseason.
Now that the four month coronavirus hiatus is finally over and professional basketball is back, here’s a short list of what Lakers fans should be looking for in tonight’s season restart game between the LA Lakers and LA Clippers:
1. Who wins the battle of the superstars?
Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis looked to be in mid-season form in the two scrimmages they played while Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard shot just 32% from the field and 27% from beyond the arc. How well each team’s superstars play will likely determines who wins the last regular season matchup between the Lakers and the Clippers. The key to watch will be who on each team defends the other team’s superstars.
2. Who wins the battle of the role players?
The Lakers lost Avery Bradley to family issues and Rajon Rondo to injury but replaced them with Dion Waiters and JR Smith while the Clippers will be missing services of Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Patrick Beverley. Should the teams’ superstars battle to a standoff, the Lakers should have a big advantage when it comes to role players considering how important Williams, Harrell, and Beverley have been to the Clippers’ success.
3. Who wins the battle of the coaching staffs?
Doc Rivers is considered to be one of the top head coaches in the NBA and has done an outstanding job juggling lineups and rotations as the Clippers deployed extensive load management for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Frank Vogel has also done an excellent job as Lakers head coach and had the team peaking with a back-to-back weekend sweep of the Bucks and Clippers before the shut down as he outcoached Budenholzer and Rivers.
4. Who cares more about winning the game?
The Lakers are going to want to even up the season series with the Clippers at two games apiece while the Clippers are more likely to see the game as not important and focus on the playoffs since they will be shorthanded. LeBron, AD, and the Lakers will want to send a message about how serious they are about winning this championship so it would not be surprising to see them make this a statement game and rout the Clippers tonight.
One’s been classified as a poor fit and future trade bait while the other was ridiculed as a bust on the way out of the league but Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters suddenly have an opportunity to change their future trajectories.
While it may be silly and presumptuous after just a couple of scrimmages to expect Kyle Kuzma’s 3-point shooting woes and Dion Waiters’ behavior issues to suddenly be solved, we’re in unprecedented, unpredictable times. The four month coronavirus hiatus has turned the sports world upside down, changed the landscape of what’s now normal, and opened doors to unexpected opportunities for struggling players like Kuzma and Waiters.
For Kyle Kuzma, the four months off allowed him to work on his body and shot, improve his confidence and shot selection, and revamp his game to better fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis both on and off the court. For Dion Waiters, joining the shorthanded Lakers who lost Avery Bradley to family issues and Rajon Rondo to injury gave him a lifesaving opportunity to play a major role on a championship caliber team and redeem his career.
While Kuzma and Waiters will have to prove their contributions are not training camp mirages, the potential one or both of them might enjoy breakout playoff performances are heady spirits for thirsty Lakers fans. Short term, Kyle and Dion could be the wild cards the Lakers need to win their 17th NBA championship. Long term, they could be the missing talent the team needs to build an NBA dynasty that outlasts LeBron James.
While helping win a championship would be a huge bonus, the grand prize that would dwarf that result would be Kuzma and Waiters becoming long term components and contributors to the next Los Angeles Lakers dynasty. A pair of talented budding young stars like 25-year old Kyle Kuzma and 28-year old Dion Waiters to play with 27-year superstar Anthony Davis would dramatically extend the post-LeBron Lakers’ championship window.
Before coronavirus forced the NBA to suspend the season, the Lakers were expected to trade forward Kyle Kuzma in the offseason for a combo guard who could fill the team’s need for a third scorer and second playmaker. Should the early promise shown by Kuzma and Waiters turn out to be true, the Lakers’ offseason plans could suddenly change and team might focus on signing both players to affordable and tradeable multi-year contracts.
That would not only give the Lakers the option of keeping both players and building around them but also give them two valuable trading chips whom they might be able to include in a package to bring back a true superstar. Not only would the Lakers suddenly have a much deeper and younger roster but they might suddenly be looking to keep their first round draft pick and maybe even buy a second pick from a team looking to cut expenses.
Alternatively, the Lakers might put a package together that included Kyle Kuzma, Dion Waiters, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, and a pair of first round picks in a trade for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, or Zach LaVine. Before the coronavirus hiatus, the Lakers had zero chance of being able to put together a package to trade for a legitimate third superstar. Kuzma and Waiters enjoying breakout performances in the playoffs could change that.
There’s no question Kuzma and Waiters will have to prove themselves in the next 8 seeding games and throughout the playoffs but what’s at stake for the Lakers is more than just a championship; it’s about a future dynasty.
One thing clear from the start is winning a championship in the Orlando bubble is going to test the mettle and character and challenge the will and discipline to win of NBA players like no other title in league history.
While Lou Williams being forced to quarantine for 10 days for violating protocol and visiting a strip club while excused from the bubble seems like a minor offense, it could have had serious consequences. Players not taking the coronavirus threat seriously is the kind of behavior that could have ended up compromising the Clippers’ opportunity to win a championship and/or the league’s ability to finish the 2020 season.
While I’m not trying to demonize Lou Williams, it’s hard for me to imagine the same thing happening with any player on the Lakers, not with a team leader like LeBron James setting the tone and tenor for his teammates. Pursuing an NBA championship in the harsh environment of the Orlando bubble demands a level of dedication and commitment inconsistent with visiting a strip club when on leave to attend a relative’s memorial services.
As NBA analyst Rafael Barlowe said in yesterday’s Lakers Fast Break podcast, it would have been different had it been 23-year old Landry Shamet who got caught instead of the Clippers’ 33-year old team leader. The incident raises legitimate questions about the Clippers’ leadership and commitment to win. Playing in the bubble is going to separate the players who are serious about winning from those who lack the dedication.
Imagine LeBron’s response had one of the Lakers’ young players broken containment and risked exposure to coronavirus by visiting a strip club? The King’s anger and displeasure would have been scalding and immediate. Yet we hear nothing from Clippers’ superstars Kawhi Leonard or Paul George and just a weak joking rebuke from head coach Doc Rivers, which highlights the difference between the Lakers’ and Clippers’ approaches.
Contrast Lou Williams’ decision with Alex Caruso choice to miss his sister’s wedding because of how a possible 10-day quarantine could adversely impact his Lakers team’s ability to get in sync for the upcoming playoffs. There’s no question LeBron James’ serious all-business approach to the NBA’s season restart weighed heavily on Alex Caruso’s mind when he made his personal decision not to leave the bubble for his sister’s wedding.
While the Lakers seem primed for the restart of the NBA season with all 17 roster players now in the bubble and cleared to play, the Clippers are still struggling to get all of their players to Orlando and out of quarantine. Williams was not the only Clipper player who left the bubble for personal reasons. Opting not to bring their two-way players to Orlando, the Clippers were only able to suit up 10 of 15 players for a scrimmage last week.
NBA players are human but playing in a bubble in a pandemic in Orlando creates an entirely different dynamic when it comes to committing to remain in isolation for a couple of months while pursuing a championship. We’re going to see lots of players not willing to make the personal sacrifices the bubble demands. There are going to be teams that, when they get down 0–2 in the playoffs, are just going to throw in the towell and go home.
Having a championship veteran leader like LeBron James clearly gives the Lakers a huge mental advantage over the competition when facing a unique and challenging situation like this season’s playoffs in the Orlando bubble.
It was just a scrimmage but Kuzma’s 25-point performance with 5 of 7 from deep versus the Magic not only backed up Frank Vogel’s statements Kuz had been dominating practices but could also end up saving his Lakers’ career.
It’s one thing to see LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing like they were in midseason form but watching Kyle Kuzma confidently and smoothy drain 10 of 13 shots including his first four three-pointers was a special surprise. Kuzma was the last of the ‘Baby Lakers’ left after the blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, a talented 25-year old whose disappointing last two seasons dimmed his bright promise and destined him as trade bait this offseason.
While that’s a lot to take away from a scrimmage and two weeks of practice, there are reasons to be optimistic. To start with, Kuzma is finally completely healthy after struggling through the season with multiple ankle injuries. The four months off not only allowed him time to work on his body and shot but also to consider his situation with the Lakers and figure out how he could succeed playing with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
In addition to tweaking his shot mechanics, Kyle appears to have changed his shot selection, specifically to take more spot-up and corner threes, which are the type of shots for which he has always shot a high percentage. Before the season hiatus, Kuz was shooting 50% (26 of 52) on corner threes versus just 24.2% (44 of 182) on above-the-break threes. Above the break, he was shooting over 34% on spot-up threes versus just 15% off the bounce.
While Kuzma’s improved shooting from deep has partly been the result of working on his shot mechanics, it’s obvious the adjustment to improve shot selection and take higher percentage shots has been equally as important. That improved shot selection was clearly evident in the Magic game as the four threes he drained in the first quarter were either open catch-and-shoot or corner threes as opposed to above-the break threes off the bounce.
Turning 25, being in what could be his first serious relationship, and facing the reality he might not be able to control where he ends up playing next season could have contributed to Kyle maturing and learning how to relax. He certainly looked like a different player on the court in these scrimmages, more confident and mentally under control, more patient and willing to let the game come to him, playing with precision and less wasted motion.
While the Lakers don’t want to limit Kuzma to being just a spot-up shooter, there’s little question those are the kinds of shot opportunities that are created playing with superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel reported that “Kuz has been one of our best players since this restart in these practices, he’s had a couple of stretches where he just dominated the floor and it’s been really encouraging to see…”
Success breeds confidence and Kuzma’s mental Achilles heel has always been his three-point shooting. Taking more of the shots he usually makes and fewer of the shots he usually misses seems like a simple adjustment. Truthfully, it’s the adjustment most unsuccessful players find the hardest to make, learning to optimize their strengths. Hopefully, it’s an adjustment that could help fix Kyle Kuzma’s broken shot and save his Lakers’ career.
Whether Kyle can continue his breakout play and become the deep threat the Lakers need on the floor with LeBron James and Anthony Davis will impact the Lakers’ decisions this offseason and Kuzma’s future on the team.
After a three and a half month hiatus, the Los Angeles Lakers will return to the hardwood in a pre-playoff tuneup consisting of three scrimmages and eight regular season seeding games at a neutral site in the Orlando bubble.
Having essentially clinched top seed in the Western Conference and facing an unprecedented season restart plus the unexpected loss of their starting and backup point guards, what should Lakers fans expect from their team? That’s the question we’re going to try to answer as Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers get ready for tomorrow afternoon’s 4:00 pm PST first scrimmage against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
A couple of early concerns have already been answered. First, the bubble seems to be working to keep the players safe from Covid-19 as the league announced yesterday all 346 NBA players in Orlando tested negative. Second, the league may have solved the challenge of broadcasting games without fans by smartly surrounding the court with video screens and banners and piping in NBA2K crowd noise to simulate game conditions.
After watching the first two scrimmages on NBA TV this afternoon, I’m confident the league is going to pull this off. I was surprised how easy it was to forget there were no fans in the seats and just enjoy watching the games. The players already are adjusting to life in the bubble and appear eager and ready to get back to playing the game they love. With that in mind, here’s what Lakers fans should expect in the upcoming scrimmages and games:
1. KCP will start for Avery Bradley.
With Avery Bradley opting not to join the team in Orlando due to family concerns, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will start at point guard for the Lakers, who went 17–3 earlier in the year when he replaced an injured Bradley. While KCP’s not as pesky a defender as Avery, he still plays quality defense and could potentially give LeBron James and Anthony Davis better spacing to attack the rim since he’s the team’s best 3-point shooter at 39.4%,
2. Waiters will come off bench for Rondo.
While the Lakers view the loss of Rajon Rondo for 6 to 8 weeks as a setback, the silver lining is it opens the door for newcomer Dion Waiters to earn a role and playing time as the team’s primary playmaker when LeBron rests. While Waiters is not a true point guard, his elite mix of shotmaking and playmaking could be exactly what the Lakers’ second unit needs and his 38.2% 3-point shooting the last two years is far better than Rondo’s 34.4%.
3. Load Management for LeBron and AD.
With the top seed in the West all but locked up, the Lakers will embrace load management and limit playing time for LeBron James and Anthony Davis to avoid injury and keep them fresh and healthy for the playoffs. Frank Vogel’s already said LeBron and AD won’t play in all the scrimmages and soon as they get their coordination, timing, and game conditioning back and the Lakers clinch the West, he may shut them down entirely.
4. Kuzma will be part of closing lineup.
Kyle Kuzma is finally fully healthy, has had three and a half months to get his head straight and work on his game, and understands how he plays the rest of this season and the playoffs will impact his future in the league. Word is Kuz has been one of the early standouts for the Lakers in Orlando, even dominating at times according to coach Vogel. It makes sense for the Lakers to find out if he can live up to the challenge of being a game closer.
5. Anthony Davis will play more center.
While Frank Vogel has said the Lakers will continue to rely on their regular season center tandem of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, the reality is matchups will require Anthony Davis to play more center in the playoffs. Preparing for AD at the five demands the Lakers figure out who’s going to be playing with him in those lineups. We’ll probably see the Lakers test different lineups with Kuzma or Morris at the four and AD the five.
6. Talen, Devontae, and Kostas will play.
While KCP and Waiters should be capable replacements for Bradley and Rondo, the loss of the latter hurt the Lakers depth so it makes sense that they give Horton-Tucker, Cacok, and Antetokounmpo get a chance to play. THT especially could see legitimate playing time in the scrimmages and seeding games since the Lakers have lost two key rotation guards while Devontae and Kostas could give the team needed front court reserves.
As much as Lakers fans are eager to see their team play, they need to realize it doesn’t matter who wins the 3 scrimmages and 8 seeding games. They’re simply pre-season games for what in the end is really a second NBA season. Without home court advantage, even finishing as the #1 seed in the West offers no advantage so the Lakers’ goal is to figure out who replaces Bradley and Rondo and make sure nobody gets injured after the long layoff.
While it will be fun watching the Lakers take on the Clippers on July 30th, the real games and drama won’t start until August 18th when the Lakers take on the team that wins the 8th spot in the Western Conference playoffs. So kick back, chillax, and whet your appetite for the real deal by watching 3 meaningless scrimmages and 8 semi-meaningless regular season seeding games because you still have almost a full month until the season begins.
I founded Lakerholics 8 years ago in an attempt to resurrect the success of the defunct LA Times Lakers Blog, one of the launching pads for the careers of journalists like Eric Pincus, Mark Medina, and the Kamenetzky brothers.
While Lakerholics enjoyed modest success, it never approached the halcyon heights of the LA Times Lakers Blog. Fortunately, it also never suffered the vicious, divisive internecine fan warfare that led the Times to close its blog. Instead, it found its niche as an online home for expats from the LA Times Lakers Blog interested in engaging in online conversations about everything Lakers while the virtual landscape surrounding it evolved and transformed.
Blogs became prolific monetized aggregators, a wave of podcasters and videographers supplanted writers, and new syndicated sports networks dominated search engines as the Internet transformed sports journalism. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the social media explosion further fragmented the market just as brand expansion and consolidation further limited creativity as Lakers fan sites grew more indistinguishable.
That was the challenge I faced when I decided to devote myself full-time to transforming Lakerholics into a new kind of online Lakers fan community that could offer a richer experience than the cookie cutter aggregator sites. I wanted to create a site that offered compelling original content, engaging online conversations, and social networking opportunities that would enable it to become a virtual home for informed, intelligent Lakers fans.
It’s taken more than six months to finish the new Lakerholics website but I believe it’s going to be a one-stop source for diehard fans to get their daily Lakers fix and enjoy unique content and interaction with like minded fans. They’ll find exceptional original content including exclusive articles, videos, and podcasts, a blog timeline with breaking news and fan commentary, a compilation of intriguing polls, and library of links to everything Lakers.
Most importantly, Lakers fans will find a beautiful professionally designed easy-to-navigate interface, a portfolio of cool social media features making it easy to participate, and a fun community with whom to enjoy their team. What’s different about Lakerholics than other Lakers sites is its members. Where other sites are driven by teams of writers and news aggregators, Lakerholics is primarily powered by its users and its best original content are the posts, comments, and conversations by and between its members.
So if you’re looking for an online community where you can meet with other informed fans and have intelligent and respectful conversations about the latest Lakers news and events, please join us at Lakerholics.com.
He’s only played 14 minutes this season, was suspended for getting high on a cannabis gummy bear, and then waived by the Miami Heat but that hasn’t stopped eager Lakers fans from jumping aboard the ferry for Wai […]
He’s only played 14 minutes this season, was suspended for getting high on a cannabis gummy bear, and then waived by the Miami Heat but that hasn’t stopped eager Lakers fans from jumping aboard the ferry for Waiters Island.
In the midst of a tumultuous season like we’ve never seen before, why not buy a ticket to Waiters Island? Who could blame Lakers fans after they had the rug pulled out from beneath them just as their team had started rolling. Like Donald Trump, it’s hard for Lakers fans not to think of what might have been had the coronavirus pandemic not turned the world upside down and irrecoverably changed the competitive landscape they must now face.
Instead of just defeating their top two competitors and catapulting to the top of the league’s power rankings, the Lakers must now go on the road and endure an unprecedented season restart and playoffs in a Covid-19 bubble. The home court advantage they won, the momentum they created, and the starting and backup point guards they had have been lost, forcing them to regroup after months off to try to regain their lost chemistry and edge.
So why not take a flyer and embrace the mercurial 28-year old Waiters? The risk of buying a ticket to Waiters Island is at an all-time low but the winning prize could be a jackpot because the talent and potential are undeniable. With Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo out, Waiters has suddenly found himself in possession of the perfect opportunity to redeem what has been a roller coaster NBA career that appeared to be descending in total freefall.
A natural born scorer who plays with “toughness and swag” and has the ball skills to get his own shot or get the ball to an open shooter off the bounce, Dion’s exactly what the Lakers’ offense needs when LeBron’s on the bench. Drafted fourth by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012, there’s no question about Waiters’ talent and potential. The issue’s always been controlling his brash immaturity and self absorbed personality and fitting on a team.
Much like new teammate Dwight Howard, the Lakers may be Waiters’ last chance to redeem his dizzying and careening NBA career. To succeed, Dion will have to rewrite the history of his playing relationship with LeBron. Hopefully, he’ll take a page out of Dwight’s book and focus on embracing the role the Lakers need him to play rather than reverting back to old habits and being the temperamental gunner who only cares about his own stats.
The disappointing experience in Miami plus the Lakers’ unified front office, coaching, and superstar leadership and strong team chemistry should give Waiters an opportunity to help the team now and carve out a future role. Dion’s been saying the right things, accepting responsibility for the mistakes in Miami, taking advantage of the opportunity with the Lakers by shining in practice, and promising his fans that Waiters Island soon “will be back.”
With Rajon Rondo suffering a ‘significant hand injury,’ the Los Angeles Lakers have now lost both their starting and backup point guards as their quest for a 17th championship starts as the season resumes in Orl […]
With Rajon Rondo suffering a ‘significant hand injury,’ the Los Angeles Lakers have now lost both their starting and backup point guards as their quest for a 17th championship starts as the season resumes in Orlando.
While many NBA pundits view the loss of starting point guard Avery Bradley and backup Rajon Rondo as devastating the Lakers’ championship hopes, the losses could end up making the Lakers an even more dangerous team. While the Lakers might woe losing Bradley and Rondo, more playing time for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and wildcard guards Dion Waiters and JR Smith could end up changing and benefiting the Lakers.
To start with, the Lakers are a team built around superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While Bradley and Rondo have been key contributor to the team’s success, neither was or is irreplaceable in Frank Vogel’s lineups. The Lakers’ actual point guard and primary playmaker has always been LeBron James, who averages a league leading 10.6 assists per game and can be expected as usual to play at least 40 minutes per game in the playoffs.
Even though Avery Bradley was listed as the starting point guard, LeBron James was the Lakers’ de facto point guard whenever he was on the floor with Rajon Rondo acting as his backup whenever he was on the bench. With LeBron playing 40 minutes per game in the playoffs, the Lakers’ just need to find someone to cover the 8 minutes per game he’s on the bench and someone to fill the 24 minutes per game Avery Bradley played.
So let’s take a look at how head coach Frank Vogel assigned playing time between the 7 guards in the Lakers’ regular season roster. Here’s a chart of the minutes and other key statistics for the 7 guards on the Lakers’ roster:
Two things immediately jump out when you study this chart. The first is none of the five remaining players on the Lakers’ roster has the playmaking skills to replace Rondo as the backup point when LeBron’s not on the floor. The second is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is likely to be the guard who takes over Avery Bradley’s starting role and minutes. In fact, when Bradley was injured earlier in the season, the Lakers went 17–3 with KCP starting.
Fortunately for the Lakers, they made a couple of prescient moves while play was suspended to upgrade their roster. First, they waived Troy Daniels and signed free agent shooting guard Dion Waiters as his replacement. Waiters was added to the roster due to his ability to create shots for himself and for teammates. While he only played 14 minutes this season, Waiters’ averaged 12.0 points and 2.8 assists last season for the Miami Heat.
Waiters’ threat as both a shot creator and playmaker make him the obvious top prospect to take over Rondo’s backup point guard role. Expect the Lakers to give him a shot in the 8 seeding games to show he can do the job. Should he not be up to the challenge, the Lakers will likely spread Rondo’s backup point guard minutes between Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook. While neither is a playmaker, Caruso adds elite defense and Cook elite shooting.
Finally, lurking in the background are 19-year old rookie Talen Horton-Tucker and veteran sharp shooter JR Smith. Much like the veteran Waiters, Horton-Tucker has shotmaking and playmaking skills but is totally untested. Much like Quinn Cook, JR Smith brings elite 3-point shooting to the table as well as championship experience playing with LeBron James. He’s not a playmaker or defender but his clutch shooting could be a valuable weapon.
While the loss of Bradley and Rondo will hurt the Lakers’ depth at guard, starting KCP and replacing Rondo with Waiters could change the team’s dynamic by improving its offensive firepower and three-point shooting. LeBron’s championship formula has always been to be surrounded by elite shooting. KCP led the team shooting 39.4% from deep vs. Bradley’s 36.4% and Waiters shot 37.7% last season compared to Rondo’s 32.8%.
They say you can never have enough shooting. Replacing Bradley and Rondo with KCP and Waiters plus JR Smith could make the Lakers a more dangerous team and ultimately help them win their 17th championship.
After a promising rookie season where he averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 36.6% from deep, and was declared a steal as 27th pick in the draft, Kyle Kuzma’s become the forgotten man on the Los Angeles L […]
After a promising rookie season where he averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 36.6% from deep, and was declared a steal as 27th pick in the draft, Kyle Kuzma’s become the forgotten man on the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster.
While his three-point shooting declined to 30.3% playing alongside LeBron James his sophomore season, Kyle still started and played over 33 minutes per game, averaging a career best 18.8 points and 2.5 assists per game. Unfortunately, with the arrival of superstar power forward Anthony Davis, Kuz lost his starting position this season and saw his stats drop to just 12.5 points in 24.6 minutes per game, while shooting a poor 29.7% from deep.
Now, as the team prepares to take off for Orlando in a couple of days, Kyle has all but disappeared from discussions of which players have a chance to be wild cards and x-factors for the Lakers as the season/playoffs resume. Frankly, the only news we hear about him is social media buzz about dating Winnie Harlow or attending Teyana Taylor’s Album Release Party. Nobody’s talking about Kuz and whether he can help the Lakers win a championship.
Instead, the talk has been about Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters, and JR Smith, three new veteran players whose addition to the Lakers’ playoff roster could end up reducing Kuzma’s playing time and opportunities. Those moves, combined with James and Davis upping their regular season 34 minutes per game to a playoff 40 minutes per game, are going to create intense competition for playing time among Lakers’ bench players.
But it would be a mistake for the Lakers to write Kyle Kuzma off as a player who could be a difference maker in their championship run both because of his potential as a valuable rotation player or trading chip this offseason. Kuzma has too much talent to dismiss him as a bust and relegate him to the end of the bench. Instead, the Lakers need to give him a legitimate chance to shine in the upcoming scrimmages and regular season games.
There are good reasons why the Lakers need to save Kuzma from being the forgotten man. First, he’s finally 100% healthy after struggling all year with an unfortunate foot injury suffered trying out for Team USA this summer. Second, Kyle can return to playing his natural small forward position now that the Lakers have Markieff Morris to backup Anthony Davis at the four. Third, other than LeBron, Kuz is the only true wing on the Lakers’ roster.
Kuzma also showed signs of breaking through right before the season was suspended. In the Lakers’ weekend sweep of the rival Bucks and Clippers, he almost averaged a double-double with 9.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. While playoff minutes are going to be scarce, Kuzma could be the wild card on the roster if he could suddenly find his shot and confidence. Giving him an early shot in Orlando could entail minimal risks and major rewards.
Despite struggling with his three-point shot, Kuzma has remained engaged when on the floor and shown improved ability defending, rebounding, and playmaking. Kyle will also be looking for a new contract after next season. Like many Lakers players, the season restart represents a redemption opportunity to put a troubled year in the rear view mirror and show what kind of player he can be. This would be his first opportunity in the playoffs.
Kuzma knows this is could be his last chance to show the Lakers he can be part of their championship future. He’s surely been working hard on fixing his long range shooting and it’s in the Lakers’ interest to give him a last shot. The risks are minimal since they have already locked up the #1 seed in the Western Conference and the reward could be a talented young wing on a roster dominated by guards and bigs and an invaluable trading chip.
So, despite the talk about who’s going to replace Avery Bradley and how the three new players could be the wild cards, the Lakers would be smart to make sure they save Kyle Kuzma from becoming the forgotten man.
Through a savvy series of opportunistic late season moves, the Los Angeles Lakers have taken major steps to upgrade their roster, expand their depth, and improve their chances of winning their 17th NBA […]
Through a savvy series of opportunistic late season moves, the Los Angeles Lakers have taken major steps to upgrade their roster, expand their depth, and improve their chances of winning their 17th NBA championship.
While the Lakers will miss Avery Bradley, a starter who opted to not join the team in Orlando for family reasons, replacing him with a championship caliber three-point shooter like JR Smith could end up being an upgrade. Similarly, exchanging DeMarcus Cousins, who never played, and Troy Daniels, who rarely played, for Markieff Morris and Dion Waiters could be smart moves that will make the Lakers a more dangerous playoff team.
Essentially, the Lakers pulled off what could be viewed as an opportunistic blockbuster straight three-player of DeMarcus Cousins, Troy Daniels, and Avery Bradley in return for Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters, and JR Smith. They traded two players who had not contributed to their success and one unavailable player for two proven veterans who filled critical roster needs and one veteran sharp shooter with playoff experience with LeBron James.
So let’s take a closer look at the roles and minutes these three veteran role players could play coming off the bench for the Lakers and the impact they could have on the team’s chances to win their 17th NBA championship:
1. Markieff Morris, 30-year old, 10-year veteran power forward/center.
Markieff Morris was signed as a free agent at the trade deadline when the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins. A career 34.4% three-point shooter, Morris was shooting a career best 39.7% for the Pistons before the trade. While he only shot 28.6% from deep on just 21 attempts in the 8 games he played as a Laker, Markieff filled a critical need for an aggressive big to back up Anthony Davis at the four and contribute spot minutes as a stretch five.
Looking ahead at the playoffs, expect Markieff to continue to backup Davis at the four and play with him at the five. He’s done a good job rebounding and fair job defending his position in 14.8 minutes per game he’s played. While Morris only shot 6 of 21 from three with the Lakers, he’s still shooting 38.6% from deep for the season, which is better than any player on the team with over 200 attempts other than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 39.4%.
If Markieff can shoot over 38% from three, he’ll not only fill a vital role for the Lakers in the playoffs creating spacing for LeBron James and Anthony Davis but also put himself in position for a key role on the team next season.
2. Dion Waiters, 28-year old, 8-year veteran shooting guard.
Dion Waiters offers the greatest upside and most risk of the Lakers’ three new players. A mercurial player who played just 14 minutes this season, he has the offensive chops to be the needed third scorer and second playmaker. In many ways, Dion’s the Lakers’ latest reiteration of Dwight Howard. Can he put his recent troubled past with the Miami Heat aside and seize a last chance to become a valuable cog in the Lakers championship roster?
In his last full season with the Heat, Waiters averaged 12.0 points, 2.6 boards, and 2.8 assists in 25.9 minutes shooting 37.7% from deep. He’ll need to be a total wild card surprise to earn those minutes in the playoffs. The Lakers must have seen something they liked to sign Dion over JR but he’ll have to show he’s matured and and can play at an elite level during the 8-game regular season to earn any consistent minutes in the playoffs.
If Waiters can get his mojo back and be the player the Lakers need to create shots for himself and teammates when LeBron is on the bench, he could be the difference maker in the Lakers’ quest for another championship.
3. JR Smith, 34-year old, 15-year veteran shooting guard.
Unlike Markieff Morris and Dion Waiters who replaced players who were not in the Lakers rotation, JR Smith was added to the roster to replace Avery Bradley, the starting point guard since opening day of the season. While the Lakers opted to add Waiters before Smith, JR probably has a better chance than Dion to become a regular part of the Lakers’ playoff rotation because of his fit and experience playing with LeBron James.
JR, like Dion, has not played for over a year but is a career 37.3% regular season three-point shooter and a career 37.0% playoff three-point shooter who ranks fourth among players for career made threes in the playoffs. While everybody remembers Smith’s gaffe in the playoffs two years ago, they also know he’s a proven clutch three-point shooter whom LeBron trusts to take and make big shots in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
If his shot is falling, look for JR to be on the floor with LeBron at crunch time. He may not play big minutes but he’s a player LeBron likes so he’ll get his opportunities to be a key role player in the Lakers’ championship run.
While the Lakers need superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win the NBA championship, they also need talented complementary role players to create the teamwork and situations for the superstars to excel. The playoffs are more than just a second season. They’re a totally different level of competition where the pressure and quality of play ramps up and the focus switches from single games to gruelling multiple game series.
That challenge will be even more arduous this year with unprecedented conditions with every playoff game played without fans at a neutral site in a bubble in Orlando, Florida in the middle of a deadly ravaging pandemic. Those are conditions that heavily favor experienced veteran players who’ve been there before and understand how to prepare for and maintain the discipline and focus needed to survive the bright lights and high stress.
The Lakers have a veteran roster with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley, and Kyle Kuzma. Nevertheless, they still need a third scorer to create his own shot, a second playmaker to run the offense when LeBron is on the bench, and better three-point shooting. That’s where the three new veterans come in.
The addition of three talented veterans like Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters, and JR Smith have upgraded the Lakers’ roster, expanded their depth, and improved their chances of winning their 17th NBA championship.
What happens if life as we know it becomes a dystopian battle against a parade of ravaging pandemics? Could bubble communities like the NBA is trying to create to finish their suspended season become a way of […]
What happens if life as we know it becomes a dystopian battle against a parade of ravaging pandemics? Could bubble communities like the NBA is trying to create to finish their suspended season become a way of life?
A future plagued by pandemics is not far fetched considering the damage coronavirus has caused worldwide. Now we hear coronavirus has begun mutating and a virulent form of swine flu could be the next pandemic. Europe has already shut its doors to visitors from the United States and states like New York are already effectively banning travelers from other states suffering rapid spread of Covid-19 by requiring quarantining.
My son’s father-in-law owns a large winery outside of Sacramento with the acreage and facilities to harbor dozens of extended families and friends in a safe and isolated residential bubble possibly for months or even years. While he’s not what would be considered to be a survivalist, he’s already started to enhance security systems, stockpile provisions, and prepare contingency plans for a move there should the current situation worsen.
What’s next? Could the gated communities of the future evolve into the bubble cities of the future? As crazy as it sounds, bubble communities as an idea could actually make sense in a dystopian future dominated by plague. Coronavirus may not be as lethal as originally thought but it’s given us more than we can handle and the next pathogen could be a more lethal and deadly threat than nuclear war, climate change, or overpopulation.
It’s a frightening thought to think life as we once enjoyed it could never come back but we’re all now in the process of creating our own personal bubbles to stay safe be it with family or friends or a combination of both. The programmer from India who is working with me to build the new Lakerholics website lives in a form of isolated bubble in Southern India that includes multiple extended families and close friends and associates.
Maybe the NBA’s Orlando bubble experiment will become a model not only for professional sports but also for groups of people who want to recreate the old normal in groups larger than just immediate family and friends.
There are many reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers are favored by the Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the 2019-20 NBA championship but they all start with superstar LeBron James, who’s still the greatest player on t […]
There are many reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers are favored by the Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the 2019-20 NBA championship but they all start with superstar LeBron James, who’s still the greatest player on the planet.
LeBron may not be the greatest athlete in the game or able to leap over tall buildings like when he was young but his unrivaled physical conditioning, championship experience, and elite basketball smarts remain unmatched. Nobody playing today — not Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, or Steph Curry — has the winning gravity and unparalleled two-way ability to dominate playoff games and series like LeBron James.
Once the NBA resumes in a month, LeBron will remind the doubters and naysayers, who’ve conveniently forgotten who he is and what he’s done, that he’s still the King and the road to the championship goes through him. He gave Giannis and Kawhi a preview of what to expect in the playoffs as he dominated play at both ends in the Lakers’ weekend sweep of the Clippers and the Bucks before coronavirus forced the league down to shut down.
Consider the unprecedented challenge NBA teams and players are going to confront in these playoffs, with games played in a bubble in the middle of a pandemic with no fans or home court advantage after a three-month delay. These are conditions where championship confidence, experience, and savvy prevail, when those who’ve been there before, know how to focus on the moment, handle the pressure, and live up to to the expectations win.
Before play was suspended, LeBron and the Lakers were playing their best basketball of the season, had catapulted over the Bucks and Clippers to top the NBA power rankings, and had generated championship momentum. There’s reason to believe, given time to become fully rested and healthy plus a daunting set of draconian conditions they’re best suited to handle, LeBron and the Lakers should be even bigger favorites to win the title.
This year’s playoffs are not a crazy, anything-can-happen, March Madness tournament where wild card outcomes and surprise upsets are going to dominate the day and untested underdogs have unexpected advantages. These playoffs are going to be a gruelling, taxing second season played under extraordinary conditions that favor poised, focused, motivated, experienced veteran teams and players with the will and skill to prevail.
The road to the 2020 NBA Championship is going to be an arduous trek filled with obstacles and hurdles never before encountered, ending with the ultimate challenge of going through LeBron James and the Lakers.
With the coronavirus pandemic exploding and endangering the future of professional sports in America, the NBA has embarked on an ambitious experimental season restart that could transform the future of the […]
With the coronavirus pandemic exploding and endangering the future of professional sports in America, the NBA has embarked on an ambitious experimental season restart that could transform the future of the league.
Hoping to salvage the 2019–20 season, the NBA league has finalized an innovative plan to resume the season with 22 of 30 teams playing 8 regular games followed by a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots. Whether this plan can save the season will depend on how successful the league is at keeping their players, coaches, and team staffs safe by isolating them in a bubble at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando.
What’s certain is the league desperately needs this experiment to work as the revenue earned by finishing the season and playoffs could be critical with the prospects of fans attending live games next season now in doubt. Just as important, there are several components of the season restart plan that could portend solutions the league could deploy to salvage the next season and help it recover from the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.
Even before the coronavirus suspension, the NBA had been struggling with reduced ticket revenue and TV ratings because of a surplus of unattractive game matchups and Daryl Morey’s controversial comments about China. Commissioner Adam Silver had already been looking at novel ideas to boost league interest and revenue, including a midseason tournament, two more expansion teams, and play-in tournaments for the final playoff spots.
One of the most controversial decisions in the league’s plan to finish the regular season was limiting play to just the 22 teams with the best records, which has resulted in much improved matchups for the 8 game schedule. While criticized by the 8 teams who were left out, fan interest and TV ratings for these games could skyrocket due to the matchups, which is a result the league should work to replicate for future regular seasons.
If the enhanced regular season matchups and the play-in tournament are successful at creating more interest, the NBA should consider deploying a similar strategy for second half of next year’s regular season and playoffs. The league already wants to create some form of midseason tournament to divide the season into two halves and it makes sense use that tournament to create more attractive game matchups for the second half of the season.
For example, the NBA could divide the season in half with 30 teams playing each other in the first half and a midseason tournament determining 16 ‘A’ teams and 14 ‘B’ teams who would play against each other the second half. The top 5 teams in each conference would get byes as ‘A’ while the other 6 teams would be seeded and play a 7-game series to determine whether they would be ‘A’ or ‘B’ teams in their conferences for the season second half.
The 16 ‘A’ teams would only play against each other for the second half of the season, which would create more attractive and competitive games and increase live ticket sales and raise television ratings on the major networks. The 14 ‘B’ teams would also only play against each other the second half of the season but the top 2 ‘B’ teams and bottom 2 ‘A’ teams in each conference would compete in a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots.
This is just one idea how the NBA could restructure future regular seasons and playoffs to improve competition, sell more tickets, and raise TV ratings by expanding playoff opportunities and creating more attractive matchups. If the league’s season restart plan is successful, it could be a blueprint how the NBA could improve its product and chart a course to regain momentum lost due the China crisis, coronavirus pandemic, and diluted matchups.
That’s why the season restart experiment planned for Orlando is so critical for the league. The NBA not only needs the revenue finishing the regular season and playoffs will generate but also the blueprint it could portend.
The Lakers title hopes face three challenges: surviving a coronavirus forced suspension of the season, surviving an untested bubble in the epicenter of a pandemic, and then winning an NBA championship with a […]
The Lakers title hopes face three challenges: surviving a coronavirus forced suspension of the season, surviving an untested bubble in the epicenter of a pandemic, and then winning an NBA championship with a depleted squad.
After comfortably beating the Bucks and Clippers in a weekend sweep that catapulted them to the top of the league power rankings, the Lakers seemed poised to roll through the playoffs and win their 17th NBA championship. But that was a ‘then’ rudely replaced with a ‘now’ dominated by a growing pandemic, cratering economy, and protests of racial injustice forcing the league and players to seriously question whether to resume the season.
That confluence of events has already led Davis Bertans, Trevor Ariza, and Avery Bradley to decide not to join their teammates in Orlando. By the end of the day, others players like Dwight Howard may also decide not to play. Meanwhile, teams and players are complaining the bubble is too limited or too restrictive, worrying about getting injured or catching Covid-19, and questioning the optics of a bunch of black NBA players locked in a bubble.
Let’s look at the first challenge the Lakers must survive to win their 17th championship. Could rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases in Florida or players testing positive derail plans to resume the season and playoffs? While that’s possible, the financial repercussions for the league and the players would be disastrous. The networks would cancel all TV contracts, the NBA would void the CBA, and both sides would lose billions.
While conditions could worsen over the next two weeks, the realistic chances the NBA will cancel their current plans to resume the season are slim and none. We may see changes but there’s too much at stake to cancel. The league is counting on the bubble to protect the players from contracting the virus and testing to enable them to control its spread. Even players who have tested positive like Nikola Jokic should have time to recover and play.
As for complaints about the bubble, the league still has a couple of weeks to work with the players and Disney World workers to resolve their concerns. Expect an expanded bubble to protect more players, workers, and families. The stakes are so high the league will spend whatever it needs to satisfy all of stakeholders necessary for the resumption of the season and the playoffs to happen. The adverse impact of cancelling the season will demand it.
Once the challenges of coronavirus and the bubble have been resolve, the Lakers will get their opportunity to win their 17th championship, though without guard Avery Bradley and maybe even center Dwight Howard. While Bradley and Howard were integral contributors during the regular season, the Lakers have able guard replacements for Avery and already plan for Anthony Davis to play increased minutes at center going forward.
So while the Lakers would certainly have preferred to have Bradley on the roster, his or Dwight Howard’s absence would not be enough to prevent the Lakers from reaching their goal and winning their 17th NBA championship.
There are more popular and obvious candidates to become the Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard of the future but none would be a better fit or more perfect complement to LeBron James and Anthony Davis than Lonzo B […]
There are more popular and obvious candidates to become the Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard of the future but none would be a better fit or more perfect complement to LeBron James and Anthony Davis than Lonzo Ball.
While he needs to be a better free throw shooter and pick-and-roll passer, there’s no young point guard who combines Lonzo’s physical size, defensive chops, playmaking skills, rebounding, 3-point shooting, and court savvy. While salary cap considerations required the Lakers to send Ball rather than Kuzma to the Pelicans in their trade for Anthony Davis last year, there’s a possibility the Lakers could bring Lonzo Ball back this coming offseason.
New Orleans wants to pull off a blockbuster trade for Bradley Beal this offseason to create a true superstar Big Three with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson and transform the Pelicans into championship contenders. The problem is the Wizards are going to want more than just Jrue Holiday and pieces and picks as part of any mega trade with the Pelicans. They’re going to want Brandon Ingram or an equivalent package of young talent.
That’s where the Lakers could jump into the picture as a third team with front office relationships with the Pelicans and Wizards and trading chips that might be of interest to the Wizards to facilitate a blockbuster trade. While the Lakers lack the assets to acquire Beal, they have their first round pick and a talented pair of prospects the Wizards could be intrigued with based on their success with other young players acquired from the Lakers.
The proposed trade would have the Lakers sending veterans Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Pelicans and youngsters Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker plus 2020 first round pick rights to the Wizards. Conversely, the Pelicans would return guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to the Lakers and send Jrue Holiday to the Wizards while Washington shipped 27-year old sharp-shooting small forward Davis Bertans to the Lakers.
While the Lakers’ main target in the proposed trade would be point guard Lonzo Ball, the opportunity to acquire elite sharp shooter Davis Bertans and valuable role player Josh Hart would be the key to LA making the deal. Several contract issues would need to be resolved for the transaction to happen, including Rondo and Caldwell-Pope not exercising player options and Bertans and the Lakers agreeing to a new contract since he’s an UFA.
The trade should prove to be a win-win deal for all three teams. The Lakers would upgrade their roster with a trio of talented young stars to fill their needs for a starting point guard and more depth while keeping their core. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Davis Bertans are all better three-point shooters and more versatile fits for the Lakers’ roster than youngsters Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker or vets Rajon Rondo or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Pelicans get the superstar guard they needed in Beal to go with future superstars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson without having to give up their treasure chest of draft picks and young talent, most notably Ingram. The addition of quality vets Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope not only give them two players who can mentor and help their young players grow and develop but also give them some proven talent to win games now.
The Wizards could end up being the biggest winners of in the mega trade swap of Bradley Beal for Jrue Holiday as it will save them over $45 million in salaries because of the one less year and lower salaries due to Holiday. Those savings plus two promising young stars in Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker plus three first round picks fit perfectly with Washington’s need to start acquiring assets for the rebuild of the Wizard’s franchise.
Blockbuster trades rarely helps all the teams get better but this trade could transform the Lakers into a dynasty, catapult the Pelicans into a contender, and give the Wizards the young talent and draft picks for a great rebuild.
While the NBA’s always been a leader in allowing its players to raise their voices against racial injustice, the time has now come for the league to take a stronger stand and support its players in a push for m […]
While the NBA’s always been a leader in allowing its players to raise their voices against racial injustice, the time has now come for the league to take a stronger stand and support its players in a push for major social change.
No professional sports league has as high a percentage of black players, as supportive a culture, or as progressive a commissioner as the NBA, whose owners and players have worked together tirelessly to build bonds of trust. Threatened by a deadly pandemic with dire economic consequences and a plague of police brutality that has players questioning whether to play, the league must find new ways to support the fight against racial injustice.
The current protests over the blatant murders of black men have touched the hearts and minds of people in America and around the world unlike any of the prior situations and are not going to go away without major change. If the NBA wants players to welcome returning to play in Orlando, they need to come up with a serious program the players will wholeheartedly embrace to support the cause of Black Lives Matter and racial justice.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions the NBA should consider which would give the players a powerful platform to promote Black Lives Matter and a strong motivation and justification for returning to play:
1. Dedicate the resumption of the NBA season and playoffs to BLM.
2. Have everybody present kneel before each game to honor BLM.
3. Contribute 10% of all television and radio proceeds to BLM.
4. Require advertisers to make similar 10% contributions to BLM.
5. Add BLM patches to all NBA jerseys worn by players and sold to fans.
6. Invite black celebrities to talk about BLM in special pre-game shows.
7. Invite black entertainers to create special BLM halftime shows.
8. Have top players of each game talk about BLM in post-game show.
9. Sell 1,000 special specially protected BLM seats for each game.
10. Auction actual player uniforms and memorabilia from each game.
These are just ten ideas I came up with off the top of my head but I’m sure the professional marketing staffs of the NBA and the teams could find even more ways to support their black players and promote Black Lives Matter. Ultimately, the goal is motivate the players to return to play in Orlando and give them a powerful platform with which to support and raise money and awareness for Black Lives Matter to create and support social change.
With America and the world coming together in a unprecedented moment of universal support for Black Lives Matter and rejection of racial injustice, black NBA players are struggling to decide how they should move […]
With America and the world coming together in a unprecedented moment of universal support for Black Lives Matter and rejection of racial injustice, black NBA players are struggling to decide how they should move forward.
At the heart of the decision facing black NBA players is whether to agree to the NBA’s proposed plans to resume play in Orlando beginning July 31st. While some are eager to return playing, others appear to be reluctant. While the NBA has been a poster child for owners and players working together, the lack of agreement about returning to play among the players could threaten both the current season as well as the future of the NBA.
Should enough players decide not to play, the NBA would likely be forced to cancel the season and playoffs, which would inevitably lead to the owners using Force Majeure to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That would force the owners and player to renegotiate a new CBA and could end up with the league and the players cancelling this season and next season, which would mean massive financial losses for both sides.
Right now, black players seem to be split into multiple groups. Some prominent players like Lakers’ superstar LeBron James sincerely believe playing in Orlando won’t deter their “ability to continue inspiring change.” James, of course, is naturally focused on leading the favored Lakers to their 17th NBA championship and winning his fourth ring so the last thing he wants is to lose that opportunity by having the season cancelled.
Others like Dwight Howard believe “basketball isn’t needed at this moment” and would only distract from progress being made by the protests and “start a trickle-down effect” that could undermine the power of the moment. Howard’s willing to make the sacrifice: “I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship, but the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up.”
The Nets’ Kyrie Irving has taken the narrative to another different level and is outwardly distrustful of the NBA and contends “something smells fishy” about the league’s plans to resume play, which the players should boycott. Irving’s sincerity could be questioned since he’s also currently injured and would not be able to return until next season and enjoys the security of a recently signed lucrative long term contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
There’s also a group who are genuinely concerned about the potential risks of major injury due to returning to play so soon after the long layoff or contracting Covid-19 as a result of playing in the middle of a pandemic. Finally, there are others concerned about the bubble and the stringent rules that will have to be enforced in Orlando to keep players safe and healthy and don’t want to be locked up in isolation for such a long period of time.
There’s so much financially at stake it’s hard to imagine the NBA owners and the various groups of players not being able to find common ground to keep the plans to resume the season in Orlando on schedule as planned. And as monumental as the promise of progress towards racial justice is, black NBA players must ultimately know a basketball hungry fanbase and media provide the best possible platform for promoting their cause.
What’s happening around the country and the world today with the protests and support to end racial injustice and inequity offers black NBA players an opportunity to unite to use their voices to support major change.
Should the NBA expand team rosters for the rest of the season and playoffs from 15 to 17 players, the Los Angeles Lakers would be wise to use one of the two additional roster slots to sign DeMarcus Cousins as a […]
Should the NBA expand team rosters for the rest of the season and playoffs from 15 to 17 players, the Los Angeles Lakers would be wise to use one of the two additional roster slots to sign DeMarcus Cousins as a free agent.
While we don’t know whether Cousins has recovered from his injuries, there’s a chance he could be ready to play since he was on schedule to return mid-June and the playoffs have been postponed until mid-August. The reasons for signing Boogie if the league expands rosters when play resumes goes beyond the help he might provide on the court. It’s about building a sustainable championship dynasty around LeBron and AD.
Returning from the multiple major injuries Cousins suffered may be a long shot but it’s one the Lakers embraced and doubled down on by keeping him on the roster most of the season until waiving him to sign Markieff Morris. While many doubt Boogie can ever recover to be anything close to the superstar he was, the Lakers obviously believe he’s a risk worth taking so using an extra roster spot to sign him as a free agent should be a slam dunk.
Like the decision to keep him on the roster after his injury last summer, the Lakers are pursuing Boogie more for his fit as a stretch five center alongside Anthony Davis next season than any hopes he can contribute this season. Even though it may be a long shot he could come back and help the Lakers win a championship, here are four solid reasons why the Lakers should sign DeMarcus Cousins as a free agent if the league expands the roster spots:
1. Signing Boogie could help the Lakers win the championship.
Talk about bad luck, DeMarcus Cousins has had more than his share. After earning an All-Star selection his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Boogie was on the precipice of huge payday when everything went bad.
The chances of Boogie coming back and playing this season may be just a pipe dream but, if healthy, his ability to stretch defenses as a stretch five with his three-point shooting could help the Lakers win the championship. The two extra months he has because of the coronavirus suspension could be the catalyst to Cousins being able to help the Lakers against teams like the Bucks and Clippers who like to pack it in against LeBron and AD.
Bottom line, the Lakers could bring Boogie along slowly with a goal for him to be their wild card when they face the Clippers in the West Conference Finals in mid-September or the Bucks in the NBA Finals in early October.
2. Signing Boogie could be insurance if McGee or Howard goes down.
With the NBA regular season and playoffs scheduled to resume in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic likely still to be raging, the Lakers and other teams need to face the reality players may get injured or test positive.
Should one of the Lakers’ two centers JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard get injured or test positive for Covid-19, the Lakers’ chances of winning an NBA championship could be in serious jeopardy without a capable replacement. Signing DeMarcus Cousins as insurance would be smart. He spent most of the season with the Lakers, knows the players and coaches, and would be the perfect backup to step in and replace McGee or Howard if needed.
The main purpose of the league expanding team rosters is for teams to add insurance players in case multiple players on their roster get injured or test positive for Covid-19. That’s exactly why the Lakers should sign Cousins.
3. Signing Boogie could strengthen the Lakers’ team chemistry.
Team chemistry is going to be a huge factor when the games resume, especially with all teams in the bubble, no crowds, and no home court advantage. Teams with weak chemistry are going to quickly wilt.
Even if he rarely plays, DeMarcus Cousins on the bench could really help the Lakers team chemistry. He has close relationships with key players on the team, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo. There’s also a chance cheering from the bench may be the best substitute for the missing crowds of fans as teams play in empty arenas and the Lakers’ bench may be the league’s most vocal and demonstrative bunch.
In a normal season, the playoffs are an arduous grind. In the middle of a pandemic where everybody gets tested daily, the pressures are going to be intense and adding Boogie to the Lakers’ bench could be a smart move.
4. Signing Boogie could guarantee the Lakers sign him next season.
When push comes to shove, guaranteeing DeMarcus Cousins would sign with the Lakers for the 2020–21 season would be reason enough alone to sign him as a free agent for the rest of this season even if he doesn’t play.
There’s a reason why the Lakers kept Boogie on the roster for most of this season despite knowing his injury history and the likelihood that he would not be able to play until next season. He is the perfect fit to play with AD. Anybody who thinks the Lakers don’t understand the medical challenges Cousins faces to return to 80% of the superstar he used to be is blind. The Lakers know the odds may be long but the reward would be incredible.
The Lakers are playing chess while the rest of the league plays checkers. That’s why, if the league expands the roster spots for the rest of this season and the playoffs, the Lakers are going to sign Boogie as a free agent.
While the Lakers’ championship hopes likely depend on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, winning this season’s crazy playoffs could hang on the play of a surprise wild card like Kyle Kuzma, Dion Waiters, or DeM […]
While the Lakers’ championship hopes likely depend on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, winning this season’s crazy playoffs could hang on the play of a surprise wild card like Kyle Kuzma, Dion Waiters, or DeMarcus Cousins.
The NBA has never had a wilder, more unpredictable playoffs in its history. Coronavirus has not only disrupted the regular season but also forced a new unorthodox playoff scheme with 22 teams playing in a bubble in Orlando. Initiating an unproven, expanded playoffs with three evenly matched teams and five top superstars playing in a pandemic under threat of suspension if testing positive could likely to lead to bizzare and unexpected outcomes.
With an 8-game regular season and extended playoffs that could last two and a half months, we could easily see scenarios where multiple players on contending teams tested positive for Covid-19 and had to be suspended. Teams could conceivably end up having to rely on key role players or even two-way players or unheralded subs from the ends of their benches to step up while waiting for stars to test negative and be allowed to return to play.
For the Lakers, here are three players who could end up being invaluable wild cards should LeBron James, Anthony Davis, or another starter or key role player test positive for Covid-19 and get suspended during the playoffs:
1. Small Forward Kyle Kuzma.
Kyle Kuzma has become the forgotten man on the Lakers. Most pundits have already traded him this offseason and nobody expects him to be a major factor in the Lakers and winning their 17th NBA championship.
Kuzma averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 24.6 minutes per game vs. 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 33.1 minutes per game last season. He shot 42.3/29.7/73.8% vs. 45.6/30.3/75.2 last year. He only started 7 of 54 games this year vs. starting 68 of 70 games last year but did average 20.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 32.7 minutes in the game he started, making him a prime candidate to step up if needed.
Kyle Kuzma could be a wild card as a key contributor off the bench playing starter minutes or substitute starting small or power forward should LeBron James or Anthony Davis get injured or test positive during the playoffs.
2. Shooting Guard Dion Waiters.
The suspension of the NBA season because Rudy Gobert tested positive happened before Dion Waiters, who had signed with the team as a free agent, had an opportunity to show the Lakers what he could contribute.
The league’s three month hiatus hopefully gave Waiters valuable time to get his conditioning back and be ready to be a major contributor as a potential third scorer and second playmaker for the Lakers heading into the playoffs. While Dion only played 3 games for the Heat this season, he averaged 12.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 25.9 minutes last season and 14.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 30.6 minutes the previous season.
Finally given the time to get healthy, Dion Waiters has the scoring mentality and playmaking skills to be the wild card third scorer and second playmaker the Lakers need to fill the holes in their roster and win a championship.
3. Center DeMarcus Cousins.
Back in February, Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said there was a chance DeMarcus Cousins could return to play by June. Now with the playoffs not scheduled to start until mid-July, could Cousins’ return be an option?
While Boogie would have to be completely recovered, in playoff shape, and capable of playing at 70 to 80% of his preinjury level, his return could give the Lakers the stretch five center they need against the Bucks and Clippers. With the NBA relaxing rules to allow teams to sign free agents to replace players lost due to positive tests for Covid-19, Cousins could be a valuable wild card if McGee or Howard were to got injured or tested positive.
Boogie returning may be a long shot but there are real risks of players getting injured or infected with coronavirus during this year’s playoffs and the Lakers would be wise to have a good backup center ready and wating.
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