In the absence of LeBron James, the hope was that the Los Angeles Lakers would step and show why they’re regarded as one of the more exciting young cores in the NBA. So far, that hasn’t happened.
Not only are the Lakers are 4-7 without James, but no one has emerged as a legitimate number two option to James, either. The closest thing they have to that in terms of scoring ability is Kyle Kuzma.
In the 11 games the Lakers have played without James, Kuzma has averaged a team-high 21 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 24.6 percent shooting from behind the arc. While he’s technically averaging more points per game, his efficiency has taken a nosedive.
Andrew Wiggins is the only other players averaging at least 20 points per game on a less efficient rate (39.1 percent) over the last 11 games. In a word, he’s been bad.
In the games before James got injured, Kuzma was shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from the 3-point line.
After practice on Saturday, Kuzma admitted that scoring without James has been harder because he’s being scouted as the Lakers’ number one option on offense with James sidelined (via Lakers.com)
“Of course. With him out, people are looking at me primarily as a scorer, so it’s my job to find those spots, get to those spots. Obviously it’s a little harder with people not looking at LeBron on the court.”
In Kuzma’s defense, everyone is struggling to score without James on the floor and very few (if any) non-lottery second-year players could carry a good team’s scoring burden.
As a team, the Lakers are ranked dead last in offensive rating (110.9) in the 11 games James has been sidelined for. Only Lonzo Ball and Tyson Chandler are scoring at a more efficient rate without James.
It’s been bad and it will continue to be bad unless something changes are made offensively. Kuzma is a gifted scorer, but he can’t do everything on offense, nor should he be asked to.