Anthony Davis has been diagnosed with a calf strain after an MRI on Monday revealed a re-aggravation near his right Achilles tendon. The Los Angeles Lakers star will be re-evaluated in two to three weeks but don't expect him back on the floor any time soon.
That news certainly throws a wrench in the Lakers' plans to repeat as NBA champions. Luckily, the franchise loaded up on depth this offseason and has options to replace Davis' minutes. Obviously no combination of guys will be able to replace what AD can do on both ends of the floor, but they have players to help out.
In the immediate future, Kyle Kuzma will likely move into the starting lineup in Davis' place. He played 26 minutes Sunday night after Davis left the game and posted 19 points and eight rebounds in an efficient performance. Kuzma has been markedly better on the defensive end this season, and has improved as a 3-point shooter, hitting 35.9 percent of his shots from deep (compared to 31.6 percent last season). The 25-year-old signed a three-year extension with the Lakers in December. Now he gets to prove that deal was worth it.
Offseason addition Montrezl Harrell will likely see a bump in playing time from his current 24.8 minutes per game. Harrell has been good for the Lakers off the bench this season, averaging 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 64.4 percent from the field. His true shooting percentage (67.0) is at a career-high as is his rebound rate (14.2). He's almost certain to get more opportunities in the coming weeks, but his size (6-foot-7 and 253 pounds) hampers the Lakers when facing some of the bigs in the Western Conference.
Another guy likely to see more playing time is Markieff Morris. Morris came up huge for the Lakers during the postseason in the NBA's Orlando bubble last year. He slid into the starting lineup to help the Lakers defeat the Houston Rockets' small-ball approach. A rugged forward who can hit from beyond the arc, Morris' inside-out game could help the Lakers fill in for Davis.
Morris has played sparingly this season thanks to the addition of Harrell and the emergence of Talen Horton-Tucker on the wing, but he'll likely see a lot more action soon. His season averages of 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 15.2 minutes per game don't inspire confidence, neither does his 3-point percentage of 29.9. But if given more time on the floor he could round into form. Morris also gives the Lakers a big (6-foot-9, 245 pounds), versatile player with six fouls to give.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel will have to work some magic to get the Lakers through this. Luckily, he's got LeBron James on his roster to help him. James is, once again, a leading contender for MVP this season and, despite some hiccups lately, the Lakers still have the second-best record in the NBA. Hopefully they'll just have to tread water for a few weeks until their other superstar is back.
Missing Davis will cause problems for the Lakers, but if they can get him back fully healthy by April, they should still be favorites to repeat as champions. L.A. just needs a few guys to step up until he's back.