Los Angeles Lakers Playoff Push

Story posted January 26, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Joe Tuman

At 23-26, the Los Angeles Lakers sit at a crossroads. While they’re still very much in the hunt for the playoffs, they also currently sit as the Western Conference’s 13th seed.

Yet with Anthony Davis returning to the lineup on Wednesday, along with the recent acquisition of forward Rui Hachimura, the Lakers may be on the upswing.

The Case For The Lakers

Currently sitting 1.5 games out of the play-in tournament, and 2.5 games out of the playoffs, there is plenty of time for the Lakers to make some traction.

Having two superstars with championship experience in LeBron James and the returning Davis will certainly amplify the Lakers’ hopes.

James, even in a season where he’s struggled to knock down his three-pointers, continues to be unbothered by father time.

Averaging 29.9 points, along with 8.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists, he continues to be an elite scorer and playmaker.

Elsewhere, before his latest injury, Davis was playing his best ball in a few seasons. Averaging roughly 27 points and 12 rebounds on 59% shooting, The Brow had returned to the All-NBA form he displayed in 2020.

His return also will skyrocket the Lakers’ defense, as Davis is one of the NBA’s very best rim protectors.

If these two are playing at their highest level, then others will benefit. James has already helped to elevate a few teammates in center Thomas Bryant and guard Austin Reaves.

Reaves has elevated his play into becoming a consistent threat on offense, shooting 49% from the field and 36% from three this year.

Bryant has also broken out, proving a near-automatic bucket in the paint, while also draining 44% of his triples.

And following the addition of Hachimura, the purple and gold now have another element to sprinkle in. The former Wizard provides a smooth mid-range jumper along with the length and versatility on defense the Lakers have lacked on the wing.

And if Hachimura re-discovers the three-point touch he displayed last season, when he knocked down 45% of his threes, he’ll provide a great catch-and-shoot option for James to find.

Should the stars stay healthy, and these role players continue thriving, Los Angeles could enjoy a big second half of its season.

Conversely, there’s also still reasons to be worried the Lakers will continue to falter.

The Case Against The Lakers

The first, and most obvious, concern is the health of James and Davis.

At age 38, The King isn’t the iron man he once was, which is understandable. But with Davis constantly dealing with nagging injuries as well, James missing action becomes more damaging.

Since the 2018-19 season, the only time each player eclipsed 60 games played was during the Lakers’ 2020 championship campaign.

Since then, the Lakers haven’t come close to reaching those same heights. Evidently, they need their two best players on the court.

Even if they do stay healthy, there’s still structural concerns from this team on the court.

Darvin Ham’s squad has been abysmal from beyond the arc, shooting just under 34%. That’s the fifth-worst mark across the NBA.

When two high-usage players in both James and Russell Westbrook are both far below league-average in that category, it’ll be hard for these numbers to improve.

Speaking of Westbrook, he remains the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Since becoming the Lakers sixth man, he’s had some truly great moments scoring against opposing second units.

However, he remains a poor defender who also struggles both beyond the arc and at the stripe.

Westbrook also sometimes can’t fight off tendencies to play hero ball, which leads to some ill-timed turnovers. This was seen first hand when the Lakers lost to the 76ers a few weeks back.

In the end, Los Angeles will likely go as far as its All-Star duo can take them. Should those players stay healthy a Play-In berth, at the very least, seems a reasonable expectation for Lakers fans to have.

Joe Tuman is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at joentuman@gmail.com