As the Los Angeles Lakers have wrapped up their 42nd game, we have now officially gone past the halfway point of their regular season.
They have accomplished a very impressive start and are on pace for 60+ wins which sounds like an amazing feat considering how bad the team has been the past few seasons.
It also looks like they have the top seed of the Western Conference to lose barring a major injury or trade that might happen and that is in part to their stellar play on both ends of the court throughout the season so far.
First off, the Anthony Davis trade has worked out pretty well to say the least. AD’s presence on both offense and defense alongside LeBron James has made this team a juggernaut and a potential title contender with two top 10 players.
AD has been great on offense feeding off of LeBron’s passes and has done well to get easy baskets inside and multiple trips to the free throw line. His jumper game still leaves a lot to be desired which is probably the only blemish on his offensive game right now. He’s only shooting below 30% on his threes and has also not been shooting well on his midrange jumpers and fadeaways from the post.
Despite those struggles, he’s still averaging 27 points per game on 50% from the field and is shooting a career best 86% on his free throws. There are times where he looks like the best player on the floor even when LeBron is playing and it was most evident when he had his 40–20 game and his 50 point game.
While AD has shown great offensive skills, his bread and butter really is at the defensive side of the ball. His impact on defense can’t be understated because he has the complete package. He has remained an elite rim protector grabbing a lot of blocks and rebounds and he also has shown the ability to switch on to wings and guards and guard them well on the perimeter.
His presence as a defensive anchor gives everyone else on the court more of an edge on that side of the floor, The Lakers’ defensive identity is what it is because of Anthony Davis.
Jumping from one superstar to another, LeBron James, in his 17th season, has been playing great all-around basketball as per usual. It’s almost laughable at this point how good LeBron still is even after all the minutes and playoff runs he’s logged over the course of his career. Even when you watch him play now, it even looks like he has an extra pep in his step when he drives to the hoop or steps back for a three. He also looks engaged on the defensive end which is a pleasant sight to see compared to how lazy he looked for parts of last year.
If AD is the Lakers’ defensive anchor, LeBron is their offensive anchor. Everything essential in the offense goes through LeBron and because of that, he’s currently averaging his career high in assists with almost 11 a game which leads the NBA. The Point LeBron experience hasn’t really been any different from before since LeBron basically played like a point guard his whole career but it’s great to see it in longer periods of time. He almost has a complete grasp of the offense, finding open shooters and cutters and of course he can bail the team out whenever he has to.
Now when it comes the role players of the team, they’ve been decent to great throughout the season but the consistency hasn’t always been there. Their two centers, Javale McGee and Dwight Howard have been great at their roles so far. They’ve done a great job of rolling to the rim to be a lob target and protect the rim on the defensive end. Avery Bradley and Danny Green have been decent starters so far by being reliable 3&D players alongside LeBron and AD.
Kyle Kuzma has been a hot topic recently with the trade rumors floating around and his improved play as of late. At times he has looked lost in both offense and defense, but there are some games where he turns it up on both ends. Consistency really is the key for Kuz if he wants to stay on the team and be a decent contributor but if he can’t hold his own, he may end up becoming a piece to get back a more reliable veteran presence. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has overcome a rough start to the season and is now one of the best 3 point shooters in the NBA while still being a good consistent defender for guards. Another notable surprise is the continued development of Alex Caruso as a good option off the bench as either guard position because of his improved shooting, playmaking, and his defensive intensity.
To talk about how the team is on the offensive end as a whole has to start with LeBron. LeBron James, at year 17, has sacrificed his scoring load this year to be the primary playmaker and it has been doing wonders for the Lakers offense. LeBron’s skill and vision when it comes to passing is arguably one of the best in the league. He controls the Lakers offense when he’s on the floor and because of that, they have the 4th best offensive rating in the league.
Even though it has been effective for the most part, there have been times where it hasn’t looked so pretty. Oftentimes, there have been times when the team relied too much on LeBron isolations and AD post-ups which elite defenses can easily scout for. The Lakers shooters also have not been consistent enough so far which may be worrisome come playoff time. It has also been a bit of struggle with LeBron off the floor because Rondo becomes the playmaker and he just isn’t like the Rondo of old. If there is something the Lakers need on offense, it’s another reliable ball handler that can steer the ship when LeBron isn’t on the floor.
This Laker team also excels on the defensive end and it shows when you see that they have the 3rd best defensive rating in the league. Their defensive identity starts with Head Coach Frank Vogel who has made a name for himself for being a great defensive coach and for Anthony Davis who is probably the complete package for a defensive player in the league. AD’s intensity has spread across the team and it has given them the energy to perform Vogel’s defensive schemes and rotations properly. It cannot be understated how good the Lakers coaching staff has prepared for most of their games on the defensive end and Frank Vogel deserves a lot of credit for that.
The Lakers have capable big men and guards when it comes to guarding the ball. They have long athletic bigs in AD, McGee, and Dwight and they also have capable wing defenders in Danny Green, Avery Bradley, KCP, and Caruso. Even LeBron has looked pretty locked in defensively which is a pleasant surprise.
Even with how good they are on defense, improvements are always welcome and it looks like the team could use another strong wing defender who can guard guys like Kawhi or KD or Giannis. Guys like Danny Green & KCP can guard quicker guards but have a hard time getting bodied by the bigger and more athletic wing players.
So far, I think that the Lakers are in great shape. Even with having high expectations for this team with the addition of Anthony Davis, it’s still shocking to watch how good this team is, this quickly. The chemistry looks great, everyone looks like they’re having fun and that they all have each other’s backs. The AD & LeBron pairing looks to be as devastating as advertised and more games just means more time to gel. This great start to a season should never be taken for granted but as always, the team still has some weaknesses, especially on the offensive end. There’s always a way for a team to improve from great to excellent and hopefully, that’s what the Lakers can be.