The Big LeadThe Big Lead

The Lakers Ride or Die With Anthony Davis in 2020

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29: LeBron James #23 is congratulated by Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers after scoring a basket against Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Staples Center on October 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

You probably read that title and thought, "Well, duh." So I'll state some more obvious facts to get them out of the way. Anthony Davis is a very good basketball player who also has a terribly lengthy list of injuries despite being only 26. The Lakers are a better team when he is on the court, and worse when he is not.

Now that the profound thoughts are in the rearview, I'd like to really emphasize just how much the Lakers have riding on a healthy Davis this season. I wrote after the opener how depth could be a big issue for the Lakers, and that will remain true even after Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma return from injury. Davis' best night as a Laker so far came on Tuesday, and it gave us a glimpse into how good this team can be when he's healthy and rolling. He dropped 40 points and grabbed 20 rebounds while hitting 26 of 27 free throws and was a large part of the reason LA went on a 22-0 run to close the third and shut the door on a feisty Grizzlies squad.

He did, however, leave the game before the half with a shoulder injury. He returned after it was re-taped, but discussed after the game that he was playing in a good amount of pain.

Davis is the crux of this Lakers team. When he's good to go, LeBron James doesn't have to worry about driving the offense by himself and can actually try defensively without getting too worn down. But when Davis is hurting or out completely, the Lakers roster, as constructed, isn't much better than LeBron's last year in Cleveland.

Let's compare: without Davis, LA's starting lineup consists of LeBron, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, and JaVale McGee. The 2017-18 Cavs' starting lineup changed quite a lot, but when it was playoff time, the starting five consisted of LeBron, Kevin Love, Tristian Thompson, J.R. Smith, and George Hill. There's an argument to be made that Kuzma is a slightly better fit next to 'Bron than Love, but as for the rest, it's a push. If you'll recall, LeBron had to drag that version of the Cavaliers kicking and screaming to the NBA Finals, and he'd have to do the same in Los Angeles if Davis were to miss significant time. Could he do that again coming off the most significant injury of his career?

Without Davis, this is another classic toothless squad surrounding LeBron. But with Davis, all the pieces click into place; LeBron's offensive load is lightened, Green and Rondo and all those guys can sit comfortably as complementary pieces (and nothing more), and the LakeShow thrives. They'll have to be very careful to make sure they have both of their stars ready when the games start to matter.