The Los Angeles Lakers have two of the 10 greatest basketball players in the world on their team in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who have averaged a combined 52.4 points, 13.7 assists and 15 rebounds per game this season. That’s good — like, really good.
The supporting cast around James and Davis has been just as impressive. While no one player has emerged as the team’s third star, they’ve each played their role well. In fact, Alex Caruso thinks there are players on the team that are underrated.
In a recent interview on “The LiucciCast,” Caruso named three of his teammates that he believes “don’t get the credit they deserve” for how “phenomenally” they’ve played their role.
“JaVale will play like the first nine minutes of each half and then sometimes he won’t go in for the rest of the half, and that’s another guy that shows up every day, gets his work in, does what he’s supposed to do and then when he goes out there he goes hard. He tries to block everything, which is a very unique skill for a big because he’s not worried about getting dunked on.”
McGee has followed up his productive first season in Los Angeles with an equally effective second season. While he’s averaged six fewer minutes than the 22.3 minutes per game he averaged last season, he’s been more efficient, averaging a career-high true shooting percentage of 65.5%.
McGee’s also had one of his most efficient seasons on the defensive end. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers are 1.5 points better per 100 possessions with McGee on the floor. That’s the first time McGee has been a net positive on the defensive end since the 2010-11 season.
He’s still prone to making silly mistakes sometimes, but that’s been mostly negated by the talent he’s been surrounded by, particularly in the front court, where he shares the floor with Anthony Davis.
“Dwight sheds any history of any past ego he’s ever had, and I’ve had some great talks with him about that, to kind of fill his role. Do the stuff he does where if he has 15 and 15 he’s excited, and if he has zero points and five blocks he’s excited.”
What else can be said that hasn’t already been said about Dwight Howard and the way he’s played this season? Both on and off the court, Howard has been a breath of fresh air for the Lakers, which isn’t something that could have been said about him in his last few stops in the NBA.
Howard might not be getting the star treatment he got during his first stint with the Lakers in 2013, but that doesn’t mean the fans aren’t appreciative of the positive impact he’s had on the team, and he’s had to earn every bit of praise he’s received this season. That’s commendable.
“And then Avery Bradley, he’s our spark plug man. He’s in that first unit and he sets the tone defensively for us every game. We had a stretch where he was out with a calf contusion or something like that, and we had ‘The Avery Challenge.’ Our defense when he was there was No. 1 in the league in defensive rating, our challenge was to get ‘The Avery Challenge’ of like ‘all right, for that night we’re going to be the No. 1 defensive rating in the league.’
“I think we only got it like one or two times without him in double-digit attempts, so those three guys do a lot, and I don’t think they get enough attention in the media.”
Similar to Howard, Bradley came into the season as a question mark. Bradley had been effective early in his career, but he struggled mightily with his last few teams. Anyone that expected Bradley to underwhelm this season was justified in their belief, but they were wrong.
In his first season with the Lakers, Bradley has lived up to his reputation of being one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. According to ESPN, Bradley has posted a Defensive Real Plus-Minus of +1.71, which is ranked third in the league behind Patrick Beverley (+2.58) and Kris Dunn (+1.79). He’s not impossible to get by, but he’s been a great fit in Frank Vogel’s defensive scheme.
Offensively, he’s made strides throughout the season. Before the season was suspended, Bradley was trading his long 2-point attempts for 3-point attempts, and, as a result, shot 40.3% from behind the arc in their last 15 games. If he continues to knock down the 3-ball with that type of consistency, it’s going to be hard to keep him off of the floor in the postseason.
James and Davis will be at the center of the everything the Lakers’ do in the playoffs, but the supporting cast will be just as crucial to their postseason success. If they can maintain or elevate the productivity they showed in the regular season, they should feel confident their chances.