With the Lakers sitting at 10-12, they have officially completed the season’s first quarter. People often say, “it’s too early to talk MVP.” Or “It’s too early to look at standings.” My rebuttal has always been, when is a good time to do so? A few years ago, I figured out the fairest way is to breakdown down the season evenly into four quarters. That way, the check-ins and conversations are consistent and constant.
So, I will give out team awards for the first quarter of the season today. I’m not saying this is the NBA MVP (although the Lakers MVP certainly has a case), just the team MVP, DPOTY, etc. I also added a few awards with some Silver Screen & Roll flavor, so be sure to read those for some fun twists and good laughs. All right, let’s start with the Lakers’ Most Valuable Player.
Most Valuable Player: Anthony Davis
We’ve discussed the play of Anthony Davis ad nauseam over the past weekend, but he deserves every bit of praise. He has exceeded any and all expectations even the most optimistic Laker fan had of him entering the season, averaging a career-high in points (28.6) and rebounds (12.8) and leading the team in both categories. Davis has finally become the number one option for the Lakers and for the first time in LeBron James’ 20-year career, he’s not the team’s definitive best player or future. There are a plethora of adjectives one could use to describe AD, but valuable is the most fitting, and that’s why he’s the MVP.
Darius Yes and No Award
Darius Soriano is known for his spectacular coverage of the Lakers over the past decade. He is also known as the king of neutrality. In a world that’s focused on picking sides and digging in, Darius is Switzerland. Always even-keeled, offering both perspectives not because he was afraid of making a stand but because he saw the value of differing viewpoints on a subject. On the Laker Film Room podcast, he is often asked a yes or no question, and instead of answering, he responds “yes and no.” and then provides context as to why both are right.
So, in honor of this mentality, I’m giving out the Yes and No Award to the player who has been playing well but is also not the answer, Russell Westbrook.
Russ has embraced coming off the bench in a manner no one, but Darvin Ham, seemed to believe would work. As a sixth man, he’s energized the offense and revitalized his career. He’s averaging 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds and is one of the main reasons this Lakers team has taken a turn for the better these past few weeks.
However, paying 44 million for a backup point guard who was supposed to be your third star is not ideal. Unless Russ returns to his 2016 form, this trade was not good, and he does not fit this team. The Lakers need big man depth and shooting. Russ provides neither. With most players on vet minimums, rookie contracts, or the MLE, you can only move and get substantial pieces for Russ. I’m happy he’s shown that he can be a productive player impacting winning basketball games, but on this team, the play will never match the need or the financial investment.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is the Lakers’ best defender. He takes on challenging assignments like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokić and can switch on wings and guards. He leads the team in blocks and thanks to his rim protection; he allows the Lakers to play their three-guard lineups and not get penalized for it.
Raj There’s a Good Player in There Award
Silver Screen & Roll’s Raj Chipalu is the hopeless optimist. He is always looking for a ray of light in the darkness and is quick to tell you a positive when it’s the last thing you want to hear. Last season, when the Lakers were losing game after game and the laughingstock of the NBA, what was he doing? Going through thousands of permutations of five-man lineups trying to find ones that worked. He would often say, “there’s a good team in here somewhere,” and it became a running joke and one of his unofficial catchphrases.
So the “There’s a Good Player in There Award” goes to the Laker, who seems like they could be good but hasn’t shown it this year. And that player is Juan Toscano-Anderson.
You want to root for JTA. He seems like a good guy, was a fan favorite for the Warriors, is young, and has already tasted victory. However, he struggles to get the time and doesn’t look good whenever he’s on the floor. He has career lows in points (2.2), rebounds (1.8), and minutes played (10.6). Coming from San Francisco, the hope was for increased role and production, but now he needs to fight to stay in the league.
You can see the potential with JTA, though. He is 6’6, which is a good size for a wing, especially on a team as small as the Lakers and if he can defend decently and hit a three here and there, why can’t he play two shifts a night? That hasn’t happened so far, but I hope it does. There’s a good player in there.
Sixth Man of the Year: Russell Westbrook
Not much debate for me with this one; it’s Russ. When he enters a game, the offense automatically speeds up, no one on the bench out-produces him, and he fits so well with players like Austin Reaves and Wenyen Gabriel. He may be the most expensive sixth man of all-time, but his production and effectiveness are undeniable.
Sabreena Merchant Memorial Sad Jeopardy Stat of the Quarter
In honor of Sabreena Merchant leaving the site, we present the Sabreena Merchant Sad Jeopardy Stat of the year.
“This team currently ranked as the fifth worst in three-point percentage in the NBA, shooting 33% from beyond the arch?”
Answer: What is the Los Angeles Lakers?
Mainly because of their 2-10 start, where the Lakers shot 26.2% from three, the team is crawling out of that bad shooting slump and adding victories to the win column to get back on track. That lousy start (along with the roster construction) is why the team has struggled to play well. Good consistent shooting is something the Lakers have been seeking for decades now and with every “shooter” added to the roster, the moment they put on the purple and gold, you can expect the bricks to start getting laid down. With the team shooting 37.1% from three over the last ten games, hopefully, the historically bad shooting days are past us.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Lonnie Walker IV
For most improved, I went back and forth between Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV, but Lonnie has taken the bigger leap. He’s gone from bench player to starter and is in the midst of a career year. The pickup of Lonnie Walker IV is a credit to the organization for finding a player in the market undervalued and capitalizing on it. Malik Monk was a similar example for the Lakers last year. Can they re-sign him, or will he get a payday from another team and walk away? I’m not sure about that, but for now, let’s enjoy the rise of SkyWalker.
The final section is peak performers. This one isn’t an opinion; it’s just the team leaders in points, assists and rebounds. The Lakers’ peak performers are:
- Anthony Davis 28.6 PPG
- Anthony Davis 12.8 RPG
- Russell Westbrook 7.7 APG
And this concludes our first quarter awards. We’ll do this again after the Lakers play 42 games which will happen on January 12. I wonder if there will be a change in the most Improved award if the current sixth man is still on the team and does LeBron earn an award?