The Los Angeles Lakers have new and exciting energy surrounding their team following their trade deadline acquisitions. Even with LeBron James out with a foot injury, the Lakers have been playing better as a unit and have much more roster depth than before. This article will analyze why their current pieces are a better fit and provide expectations for what previously seemed a lost season.
Every significant piece the Lakers acquired fits a particular need that the Lakers were previously missing.
D’Angelo Russell has been playing well this season, giving the Lakers another offensive dimension. He’s shown that he can be relied on as a scorer and distributor. Russell is averaging close to 18 points and six assists on the season. LeBron has a proven track record of performing well with guards, most notably Dwayne Wade and Kyrie Irving. Russell isn’t at that level, but having another playmaker to space the floor is something Los Angeles was missing. James is also 38 years old and currently injured; the more possessions Russell can positively impact, particularly in the regular season, the better.
Malik Beasley fills the void that has been missing since sharp-shooter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s departure. Beasley hovers around 38% from three in his career. Like Russell, he allows the Lakers to space the floor, allowing their stars, Anthony Davis and LeBron, to operate. LeBron’s had an apparent blueprint for successful rosters he’s been on throughout his career, and one of the main ingredients has always been a consistent three-point shooter. So Beasley fits in extremely nicely here so far.
Jarred Vanderbilt is a 6’8″, versatile defender that can hold his own when switched onto quicker guards. The Lakers have plenty of offensive firepower on their team in LeBron, Davis, and Russell. Vanderbilt plays a pivotal role on this team as someone who doesn’t demand the ball. He’s a great role player who can defend and provide energy. The previous Laker’s roster lacked in that department.
Rui Hachimura is a former ninth-overall draft pick that the Lakers acquired without giving up many assets. Like Vanderbilt, Rui is another 6’8″ player that gives the Lakers more size and depth on their bench. He still needs to improve his overall shooting and playmaking skills. However, the move gives the Lakers another reliable bench option they didn’t have before.
The West has been inconsistent as of late. Most of the teams ahead of the Lakers in the playoff standings have been going through some adversity lately.
The Denver Nuggets recently lost four games in a row and don’t seem as invincible as they once were. Kevin Durant is still recovering from his ankle injury, and Chris Paul has to be labeled somewhat injury-prone for the Phoenix Suns.
The Memphis Grizzlies have been dealing with multiple distractions, between Ja Morant‘s off-court antics, Steven Adams being out for multiple weeks with a knee injury, and Brandon Clarke suffering a season-ending Achilles injury.
The defending champion Golden State Warriors are in disarray and still can’t figure out how to win on the road for whatever reason. The new-look Dallas Mavericks just had a three-game losing streak and don’t have enough depth or defensive pieces surrounding Luka Dončić and Kyrie.
Don’t count out this Lakers team just yet this season. Sure, they’re hovering around .500, but they’ve been as hot as any team in the Western Conference lately. Given the downward trajectory of many teams in the West and the revamped Lakers’ momentum, they could make for a competitive playoff matchup for just about any team in the West.