The opening ~25% of the season for the Lakers has certainly been a suboptimal one for the Lakers, but not in the way of last season’s. While the team underperformed from the jump last year, these Lakers have fought valiantly and have had notably more quality wins as well as a higher quantity of them.
After Thursday’s loss to the Thunder, the Lakers are now 11-9 on the season. It was a frustrating loss, but one the team has become familiar with in the opening weeks. Undermanned, in a tough situation in terms of schedule and circumstance, the Lakers gave it the good ole college try but were no match.
If it were a situation in which the same players have been out through that span, it would be one thing. But through the opening 20 games, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Christian Wood are the only players not to miss at least one game. LeBron James and Anthony Davis, in fact, have only missed one game apiece.
After that? It’s been a revolving door. Particularly on the wings, the Lakers have seen players on the roster come and go. The depth the team preached about in the preseason is one of the reasons they’ve been able to stay afloat in the early goings.
Those injuries have made it tough to evaluate the team big picture. Following the loss to OKC, LeBron was asked if he had a clearer sense of the team through 20 games.
“I have no idea what we are,” LeBron said. “How? We don’t have a group yet. I know what some of us individually are but as far as a team, we don’t have our group yet. We haven’t logged enough minutes with our group where we know we have a starting group, we have the guys coming in (off the bench), we got a good rhythm. We’re over .500. We’re 11-9 with literally not ever having our same group. That’s pretty impressive.”
It’s not fun to look at an 11-9 record for a team with title aspirations and call it impressive, but it’s also the truth. This has largely been a patchwork roster trying to use the pieces available to remain competitive.
Remaining competitive, though, means they haven’t been able to contend with the best teams. The Lakers have been blown out by the Magic, Sixers and Thunder, teams in the top-half of the standings in their respective conferences.
They’re unbeaten against teams above .500 (6-0) and have struggled much more against teams above .500 (5-9). It’s a trend AD discussed following Wednesday’s game against the Pistons.
“I think we are staying afloat and winning games that we should win, but also losing games that we feel like we should win,” Davis said. “But I mean, I think through 20 games obviously we feel like we could be better. We could have won games that we lost, but we’re okay, especially without being fully healthy with some of our top guys. So, I feel like we’re in a good spot.”
The good news is that it seems that happier days are on the way. The vast majority of the Lakers on the injury report are very close to a return and could finally provide a real look at the Lakers for the first time this season.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.