The Lakers are one of the most media-covered NBA teams out there, which is why I would prefer to cover other teams that don’t receive as much attention. However, now is a more important time to cover the team than ever, as the team is facing struggles nightly and have a record of 17-18, 7th in the Western Conference.
Let’s start with the most noticeable hole in this team, and that lingers within the forward positions. The only true small forwards on the roster are LeBron James, Trevor Ariza, and Carmelo Anthony. Ariza has only played in three games this season for a total of 36 minutes, and due to the lack of power forward depth, Anthony spends a good chunk of his time manning the 4. The organization has made it clear that Jerami Grant is one of their prime targets, but acquiring him would be difficult. For example, what’s in it for the Pistons? They are in the middle of a complete rebuilding stage with a multitude of young talent. Why would they trade their cornerstone piece for a package of veterans on minimum contracts? It’s not logical, which is why I have a hard time believing Detroit would take part in any exchange. Having a capable small forward on your roster is one of the most underrated topics in the NBA. A small forward is the most versatile player on the floor and can defend a guard or a big. LeBron can do this, but he shouldn’t have to at his age.
Secondly, the Lakers need to find another small-ball 5. David Fizdale (interim HC for Frank Vogel at the time) first started LeBron at center on Dec. 28th versus Houston, and it worked nicely. The Lakers broke their 5-game losing streak and both LeBron and Westbrook had triple-doubles. When Fizdale was asked about what led to him starting LeBron at center, he simply stated that James’ plus-minus was impeccable when he played the 5. As of that night according to CTG, when LeBron is on the floor without Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, or DeAndre Jordan, the Lakers outscore their opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions with a 112.9 offensive rating that would rank third amongst the league. Here’s something else. When Westbrook was in Houston, they traded Clint Capela (although injured at the time) for Robert Covington in part of a four-team deal. This was to insert Westbrook into a lineup without a true center. This ultimately worked, as Houston finished 44-28 and made it to the Western Conference semifinals. It wasn’t an oddity that Westbrook had a tremendous game with LeBron at center, as he scored 24/12/10 on nearly 60% from the floor. The bottom line is, Los Angeles needs a small-ball center, and it can’t be LeBron. They can’t risk anything happening to him in the regular season.
I’m sure that Rob Pelinka will be quite busy over these next few weeks, and it shall be especially intriguing to witness the plan that he devises.