The Lakers have somehow been able to win four out of their last five games, making them 17-21. Now, I know this is nothing special, but it does show some life in LA. It is also worth mentioning that they were able to beat the Miami Heat in their latest game 112-109 without LeBron or AD. All of a sudden, there is a small buzz around the team from Los Angeles as we approach the halfway point in the NBA season. If we have learned anything while watching LeBron, it is that a team with him has a chance. But is this team actually good enough to win games consistently enough to make the playoffs?
The supporting cast seems to be the real question when looking at this team. LeBron and Anthony Davis are fantastic players, but they are both injury-prone. Neither player can do the things that they once could, which puts more pressure on the surrounding players. Russell Westbrook is one of those players, and he has been playing about the same as last year statistically. Westbrook is averaging 14.5 PPG, 7.7 APG, and 6.3 RPG so far this year. Although this year is still better than last year due to a drop-off in minutes. Last year, Russ was averaging 34.3 minutes while this year he has been averaging 27.8. It is safe to say there has been a lot less complaining about Russ as he is starting to fit into the sixth-man role quite well. His play has certainly boosted the squad, and I can’t say I can do much complaining with how he has distributed the ball.
Austin Reaves and Dennis Schroder have been the other guards who have been instrumental on the offensive side of the ball. Reaves is still a young player and has been impressive given his NBA experience. Schroder has been playing very well down the stretch, despite a tougher start. One of these guys is going to need to play consistent defense in order for the Lakers to make a run. Russ has the ability, but I am not sure if he will be able to reach the starter point for this team. Patrick Beverley is the other guard who will play great defense for the Lakers consistently. If they can get one of these other guards to be a little bit better on defense, this team hits another gear.
What About the Stars?
The last piece of the puzzle is LeBron and AD. As we have detailed, this team is not beyond being a threat in the West. They just need all the players to stay healthy long enough to get some momentum. I am concerned with the lack of consistency between the two stars as they can’t seem to stay healthy long enough to mesh with each other. LeBron is still playing at a high level, and he showed the world that he can still dominate in year 20. AD has shown similar potential as he was playing at a dominant level when he was healthy as well. I am not sure if both players will be able to stay healthy long enough for this team to make a run into the top 6.
There is no doubt there is potential in a Lakers team that always grabs the media headlines. To go back to the question, no, this team is not overrated. The attention they have gotten for winning recently has been deserved, and this team has the potential to be fighting in the West. The biggest difference I see is that the guard play has improved enough to give this team a chance. They just need to execute, especially when playing higher-level opponents. The last time we saw AD and LeBron on the court against top-tier opponents, they played well but suffered overtime losses to Boston and Philly. The chances are there, but this team can’t be playing down players for the rest of the year. The opportunity is there for the Lakers to rise, but the injuries are keeping this team from taking flight.
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