LeBron James still has yet to come by his first win with the Los Angeles Lakers. Thus far, the schedule has not been kind, but a game against a Phoenix Suns team still trying to find itself is a great opportunity to change that.
Phoenix does present some challenges of their own. For starters, Devin Booker is one of the league’s top young talents and plays a position that, defensively speaking, the Lakers aren’t particularly well-equipped to stop. Yes, Josh Hart has been surprisingly good this season, but his perimeter defense still leaves a lot to be desired and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, well, he just hasn’t been good in just about any aspect of the game.
Matchup concerns don’t stop there, either. With the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Phoenix selected DeAndre Ayton, who has all the tools to give fits to a Lakers center rotation currently constituted of JaVale McGee (who has been good but is prone to foul trouble) and Jonathan Williams (who was cut before the season) and Michael Beasley (who has yet to show very much of anything this season).
Ayton is obviously young, but he’s averaging a double-double (14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds) on the season and he’s plenty talented enough to wear down this thin group of Lakers centers. Behind him, Tyson Chandler is still capable of affecting the game, as well.
For the Lakers, well, they have LeBron James. So at least there’s that. Phoenix does have Trevor Ariza as his primary defender. Behind Ariza, Phoenix doesn’t have too much experience, but Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges and TJ Warren are all capable wings.
Kyle Kuzma will be looking to build on his 37-point breakout game Monday evening, as he’ll probably get the start once again in Brandon Ingram’s place as the latter serves the second game of his four-game suspension. Lonzo Ball will also start in the second game of Rajon Rondo’s three-game suspension. Ball also played fairly well in his first start of the season, and Phoenix does not have a very good rotation of point guards.
It will be interesting to see whether Luke Walton will stick with Caldwell-Pope once again or finally makes the change to Hart, who has vastly outplayed his veteran counterpart. Don’t expect an update on this for a while, though, as Walton keeps his lineup choices extremely close to the vest.
The Lakers really should win this game. They’re the better team overall and have played well enough to beat teams better than the one they’ll be taking on tonight. If they don’t win, however, the takes will be out in full force — and the worst part is that some of those concerns will be fair.
As the game is played in Phoenix, start time is 7 p.m. tonight instead of the usual 7:30. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.