Before the NBA suspended its season, the Los Angeles Lakers looked like they were starting to turn the corner, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that LeBron James was playing at close to 100 percent, or “playoff mode.”
In the nine games the Lakers played after the All-Star break, James averaged 30 points per game on 55.1% shooting from the field, in addition to 9.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game. During that stretch, they went 7-2, with wins against the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers.
When James is locked in, the Lakers are almost unbeatable, and with the postseason coming up, they’ll need him to be locked in every night. The question is: do they need him to be their best player every night in order to win a championship this season?
According to Danny Green, that answer is yes. During a recent appearance on ESPN’s “First Take,” Green talked about how important James has been to the Lakers’ success, and where he has James in the MVP race:
“We’ve got to have him because, mainly, he’s our point guard, he’s our facilitator — it starts with him. He’s a mismatch problem all over the floor, and he’s got to be able to read the pace of the game for us against certain teams. Like you said, he’s got to be at his best, he’s got to be healthy and play well. Not just him — AD, of course, too, is very crucial — but it definitely starts with him. He’s our engine; he’s the MVP of the league in my opinion.”
So James is good — we know that. We also know that Anthony Davis can give the Lakers at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks on any given night. The biggest question mark is the role players around the team’s two stars.
Going into the season, the hope was that Kyle Kuzma would emerge as the Lakers’ third star to James and Davis. Now, it’s become clear that the role players will have to collectively make up that third star production, and Green talked about his expectations for the team’s “key” supporting cast:
We have a very deep team — a lot of depth — so guys like Kuz, Avery Bradley, myself, and KCP, we’re going to need those four guys on our group to be able to have a good night at least one night each throughout the playoffs.”
The best example of one of the Lakers’ role players providing star production this season is Bradley’s game against the Clippers. In the Lakers’ last matchup with the Clippers, Bradley scored 24 points on 9-17 shooting from the field, 6-12 shooting from behind the arc. Even Green has shown the potential to be that player this season, scoring 28 points in his Lakers debut.
While it would be ideal for them to have one other guy they can count on for consistent production, they have to work with what they have, and what they have has been good enough so far.