The New-Look Lakers Might Actually Be Really Good
The Los Angeles Lakers have spent most of the past two seasons floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference. A few weeks ago at the trade deadline, general manager Rob Pelinka transformed the roster with several trades that appear to have turned the season around. On Sunday, the Lakers erased a 27-point deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks on the road. The rest of the NBA may have to come to grips with the fact that LeBron James and his new-look supporting cast are dangerous.
Even with the Lakers' top trade deadline acquisition, D'Angelo Russell, out with an ankle injury, the Lakers took down Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving & Co. after falling behind 48-21 midway through the second quarter. Recent acquisition Jarred Vanderbilt shined, scoring 15 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, while Anthony Davis led the way with 30 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. LeBron James did what he does, pouring in 26 points, adding eight rebounds and four assists. It was an outstanding performance all around.
The fact that the Lakers stormed all the way back to beat the Mavericks without Russell and with fellow new acquisition Malik Beasley only going 2-of-11 from 3-point range bodes well for the future.
Since the new players joined, the Lakers have won four of five. The only loss came on the road against the Trail Blazers on a night James sat out and Portland hit a ridiculous 23 3-pointers. Other than that, LA is blemish-free and the roster is still sorting itself out. When the players get used to each other, they should be even better.
The Lakers are currently 12th in the Western Conference at 29-32. They are one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans (30-31) for the final spot in the NBA's play-in tournament. More crucially, LA is only 2.5 games back of the Mavericks (32-30) for the sixth spot -- the final place that avoids the play-in games. The Lakers have 21 games left to make up that difference.
If James and Davis stay healthy, they should be a force with their new supporting cast. This roster is actually good after two seasons of complete mismanagement. The team is now deeper, more athletic and has the shooters and scorers needed to help spread the floor for its two superstars.
If this goes right, the Lakers are looking like a squad no NBA team will want to contend with in the postseason.