What’s up with the Los Angeles Lakers?


Getty Images

Alyson Szeto | aszeto@theticker.org

Kyle McKee, Sports Editor

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently tied for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Let that sink in for a second. The defending champion Lakers, with two of the 10 best players in the world, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are in danger of being a part of the play-in tournament.

A lot of the Lakers’ struggles this season have been due to injuries. Davis has played in 29 games and has missed 35 of the 62 games the Lakers have played thus far this season.

In the games that Davis has been available, he hasn’t been the superstar he was last year. In the 29 games Davis has played this season, according to ESPN, “the Brow” has put up 21.3 points per game, eight rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game. All of those stats are the lowest since Davis’ first couple of years in the league.

Then, there’s LeBron, who has been more available than Davis, but King James has missed his fair share of action this season, which is very uncharacteristic of the king. LeBron has missed 20 games this season, which is the most he’s missed since the 2018-19 season, his first year with the Lakers when they missed the playoffs.

When a team’s two best players are not available to play, the team is going to struggle. Make those two of the best players in the league and one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and that team will struggle a lot. That’s exactly what the Lakers have been doing: struggling.

According to StatMuse, the Lakers are 8-12 when LeBron doesn’t play. Yikes, that’s rough.

Despite all this, many fans and NBA experts predict that the Lakers will still make the NBA Finals, that is, as long as LeBron and Davis stay healthy. Some would think that the Lakers’ season from hell would have fans and experts picking against the purple and gold in the playoffs, but that hasn’t been the case. The main reason for this has to do with LeBron.

Nobody wants to be the person that bets against LeBron. He has proven so many times not to count him out. From his coming out party in 2007 to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ miraculous comeback in the 2016 Finals to his masterful performance in the 2018 playoffs where he led a fourth-seeded Cavs team to the Finals, LeBron is that dude.

As long as King James is available, the Lakers have a shot at winning it all, and not just any shot, a really, really good shot.

Another reason to pick the Lakers to come out of the West is their defense. According to ESPN, the Lakers rank in the top 10 in pretty much every defensive statistic, including being second in the league, only behind the New York Knicks, in points allowed per game, at 106.7.

That’s without Davis, one of the good, if not, best defensive players in the league, for more than half of the season, and without LeBron, who’s no slouch either.

Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel and his staff have the Lakers playing great defensive basketball. Watching the purple and gold, fans can tell that the players are completely bought into the system and have great team chemistry. However, in the modern NBA, to win, teams got to put up some points. That’s where the Lakers struggle the most when LeBron and Davis are out.

If and when LeBron and Davis are healthy, the Lakers offense will pick up exponentially, and their already great defense will be even better.

With that being said, if the Lakers do somehow make the Finals, it will be one of the toughest runs LeBron has ever been through.

If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would win the tiebreaker for the sixth seed and would play the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The Nuggets, led by the Most Valuable Player favorite, Nikola Jokic, have been one of the hottest teams in the league at this point in the season, despite one of their star players, Jamal Murray, sitting out for the season after tearing his ACL.

If the Lakers were to get past Denver, they would then, most likely, match up against the Utah Jazz or the Phoenix Suns, who have been the best two teams in the league this season.

Even though the Lakers will be the favorites to come out of the West if LeBron and Davis are healthy, even as the sixth or seventh seed, they’ll have a gauntlet of a road ahead of them in the playoffs. If LeBron somehow manages to pull this one off and capture his fifth ring, he may be the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball.