The Los Angeles Lakers are a work-in progress and have been since the season tipped off a few months ago, however now the team seems to be as healthy as they have been all year. Over the offseason the front office put together this roster with the hopes of bringing another championship to Los Angeles but so far, the team has played extremely inconsistent, in part due to injuries on the team. Guard Kendrick Nunn, who the team envisioned as a legit scoring option, has yet to suit up for the Lakers as he battles back from an injury. Anthony Davis just came back from a month-long injury and since his return, the team has looked better as it tries to salvage this season.
This team is still built around two elite players and another player in Russell Westbrook, who at times can be categorized as elite in this later stage of his career. The hope for this team is more than another disappointing regular season followed by a first-round playoff exit, which was the case last year. Case in point, there is still time for this team to mesh and make a run. Getting Davis back unlocks a lot for this team as it allows them to truly have a force on the defensive end, something that has been lacking the majority of the season. When healthy, Davis is one of the best players in the NBA both on offense and defense but the issue with him is that he can’t seem to stay on the court.
While he was out, the team implemented almost a micro-ball approach to their lineups, deploying forwards as centers for nearly the entire game. However, with Davis back in the fold, he can now play the center position and help unlock the true potential of this Los Angeles squad. The one major criticism of Davis has been his aggressiveness at times and him settling for jump shots instead of attacking the paint where he would clearly have major advantages over most other players in the league. He is normally much quicker and athletic than other big men around the league and should use this to get himself easy shots at the rim. Playing from the inside out would be wise for Davis as he makes his way back from injury.
While he was out, the Lakers held their own offensively so Davis should be able to easily fall into line with the team’s approach. The offense for the Lakers small ball scheme centers around screens, high ball movement, movement without the ball, and avoiding ball-stopping isolation possessions. Davis has been able to do this during his career and has made a living moving without the ball while paired up with LeBron James. If he can adapt to this new philosophy that the Lakers are putting out onto the court, the team should see more positive results than what has taken place so far.
He has the ability to use his pure quickness to spin out of ball denials and use his upper body strength to create open passing lanes for his teammates, either for easy finishes at the rim or potential open jump shots. Utilizing this approach could help keep him engaged within the game at all times and would help diversify the team’s offense. Davis being on the court also allows pressure to be taken off of James, as he commands double teams when he touches the ball, allowing James to move more freely on the court. It also allows the Lakers to not have to rely on Russell Westbrook to be a full-time scorer and just let him play his game without the need to force the issue on offense.
Now on the defensive side of the ball is where the Lakers really missed Davis. He is a true big man that this team was lacking and allows them to still play their small ball game while having him anchor the defense. One major issue with this Lakers defenses this season has been the rim protection because the Lakers don’t possess strong perimeter defenders on the team, so players continue to fly by them on the way to the basket. With Davis back, opposing teams may think twice before attacking the rim because Davis is considered one of the best defensive players in the game today.
The Lakers have the tools to possibly make a run now that Davis is back healthy. The team needs him to be the best version of himself every single night as they pair him with LeBron James, who has been having one of the best seasons of his career. The NBA world has seen Davis be excellent at the highest level in the NBA Finals and for the team’s sake, he needs to be that guy again. A team with a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis is as scary as any in the league and they just need to figure out a way to put it all together. If the Lakers are indeed going to make a run, it all starts with Davis.