This team is hanging on by a thread, barely treading water. They just completed an improbable win over the Grizzlies, who are in first in the West and were winners of 11 straight games coming into Friday night.
On Sunday, the Lakers completed a highly improbable comeback win over the Blazers, who are neck-and-neck with them right now in the standings, in a game in which the Lakers found themselves down 71-46 at halftime.
It was right after the Cowboys/Niners game, and I was going to turn on the Lakers game, but I saw they were down 25 so I didn’t even bother.
They got outscored 45-13 in the second quarter. Felt like it was curtains.
Then I get a notification on my phone a couple hours later saying the Lakers somehow won the game?!
The Lakers now sit at 22-25 after a 2-10 start, meaning they’re a respectable 20-15 since November 13.
This team fights, man. They really do. They were down at one point 14 points to the Grizzlies on Friday night. It seemed like they were dead in the water in that game, but they just kept clawing back into it, hanging around, and then Dennis Schroder made a huge play when the opportunity presented itself.
They were able to beat Memphis despite LeBron having a pretty bad game, for his standards at least. He only had 23 points and did it on 8/21 shooting, which is pretty brutal. However, LeBron was +9 for the game and they won by a single point, so even in spite of his poor shooting, the Lakers were still a better team than the Grizzlies when LeBron was on the floor. (He also had 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals against only 3 turnovers).
They’re just so scrappy, man. They’ve shown the ability to compete with the best teams in the league. They’re 11-10 since AD got hurt in the Denver game on December 16.
They’ve beaten Memphis, they’ve beaten Milwaukee, they’ve beaten Denver, and they were so close to beating Dallas the other week (if Ham had just told his guys to foul Luka at the end of regulation instead of letting him shooting the three, which he hit to tie the game).
They almost beat Boston back in December, but AD missed a free throw that would’ve made it 111-108 Lakers lead with 28 seconds to go. The Celtics won in OT.
They lost by one point to Philly on January 15 due to a bad no-call by the refs at the end (Embiid should’ve been whistled for grabbing Westbrook’s wrist on the final shot attempt).
They lost to Philly another time back in December in OT. AD missed a free throw that would’ve given the Lakers a one point lead with 3.1 seconds to play in regulation.
The LA Lakers could very well have a winning record this year if a few tight games had gone their way. Of course, a lot of teams can say that, but I just think when you have LeBron playing at an elite level, and Anthony Davis also playing at an elite level (when healthy) it is unconscionable to simply punt on that season, and give up on that team.
They deserve a chance to compete for a championship, which they would be able to do if the front office just made a few moves to correct some of the glaring deficiencies on the roster. They have no perimeter size, could use some better three point shooters, and they desperately need some interior defense. Thomas Bryant is a beast in the paint offensively, but not so much defensively.
The Lakers have basically been squeezing everything possible out of their team. Again, the results have been there following the 2-10 start; they’ve been winning the majority of their games. But these wins are not coming easy; there’s not much margin for error. Plus, in current form, this team has a definite ceiling. They need reinforcements if they’re going to seriously compete in the playoffs.
Obviously they will get reinforcements when AD, Reaves and Lonnie come back from injury, but they still need a little more to truly be a championship contender. And because of the terrible 2-10 start, they are really in an uphill battle just to make it to the playoffs.
If they just get to the playoffs, with LeBron and AD, anything can happen. But it’s no guarantee.
Now, however, on Monday afternoon, the Lakers finalized a trade that landed them Rui Hachimura from the Wizards in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and 3 second round picks.
Nunn had a tough start to the year but had been playing better and hitting shots, however, he’s only 6’2”, and on a team that already has Westbrook, Schroder and Pat Bev, there were just too many guards and not enough big wings.
Hachimura is a big, physical, powerful wing who can hit threes. He’s a very welcome addition to the team. He was the 9th pick in the 2019 draft, was really good at Gonzaga–he’s a talented player.
Size is good for the Lakers. In 2020, when they won the championship, they were a massive team. LeBron and AD, obviously, but also they had KCP who’s 6’6”, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, Kyle Kuzma who’s 6’9”, Markieff Morris at 6’9”, Danny Green at 6’6”. The smallest players they used were Alex Caruso at 6’4” and Rondo who’s like 6’1”. They would just dwarf everybody they played.
This year’s team has almost no size outside of LeBron, AD, Wenyen Gabriel and Thomas Bryant. Most of their players are 6’4” and under. I think JTA is like 6’5”. So Hachimura gives them some much needed perimeter size.
However, the Lakers should still be considering additional trades, particularly another big wing who can shoot and a defensive big. But Hachimura gives them a nice boost. He’s a big body who can move, and I really like the pickup.
Parting with 3 second round picks is tough because the Lakers’ scouting department is actually one of the best in the league and often finds gems with those picks (as well as in undrafted players). But you sacrifice those second rounders to try to win now.
More importantly, this is the first time all year it feels like the Lakers front office isn’t punting on the season and deliberately wasting LeBron’s greatness. It feels like the front office is now finally on the same page as the fans—or at least that they are hearing what the fans are saying.
Laker fans want the front office to make efforts towards winning a championship this season. Laker fans don’t want to punt on this year. They see LeBron playing at this level, they saw how great AD was before he went down.
And most of all, they see that the team has not given up at all. In fact, they are a game above .500 since AD went down. The team is fighting to stay alive, holding the fort down until AD comes back, and succeeding. It would be unconscionable for the front office to give up on this team when they have been battling so hard all season long.
They’re only 2.5 games back of the 5 seed in the Western Conference. Just one game out of being in the play-in tournament. The front office had to make a move. They had no choice. These players deserve a chance to seriously compete, and for the first time this season, it feels like the front office is actually committed to winning.
By no means does this mean they should be satisfied and call this mission accomplished, the team still has more needs that can and should be addressed by the trade deadline.
Getting Bojan Bogdanovich, a great shooter, would be huge for the Lakers, as would adding a defensive big.
But acquiring a big body like Hachimura is a great start.