Believe it or not, the Lakers will be 25% done with the season after their matchup against the Houston Rockets on Saturday. Win or lose, the Lakers will end the first quarter of the season barely over .500 with plenty of questions and concerns about how the team can improve and rise in the Western Conference rankings.
One could try to solve the first-quarter woes, given that the Lakers have the fourth-worst plus-minus in the league at -3.5, according to NBA.com.
Or you could focus on three-point shooting, an area where massive improvement can be made. L.A. is shooting at 33.8% from beyond the arch, and head coach Darvin Ham's adjustment to the five-out offense was supposed to get more attempts and better looks, but neither has come to fruition. The Lakers shot 34.6% from deep last season and attempted 31.2 threes per game compared to this season's 29.6.
Of all the areas of improvement that need to be addressed, Ham believes the top priority is still health.
"You realize this is a marathon of a season," Ham said after the Lakers lost in Oklahoma City. "Every NBA season is a marathon. You trust your staff from medical to coaches to everyone to work diligently to make sure we have our guys available and that won't change. It's unfortunate timing but, again, our player's health is top priority. It sucks to drop games and do all the adjustments and things mentioned but at the end of the day, I know what we're going to be. I know, once we do get whole, how complete and balanced our attack will be. We just have to deal with it in the present and try to, again, put your best foot forward as best as possible."
They say health is wealth and Ham is right in many aspects. With key players like Jarred Vanderbilt out, it's been difficult for the Lakers to have an elite defense and slot players in the roles the team envisioned when they orchestrated this roster in the summer.
Yes, their two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, have been healthy, but the absence of key pieces has caused both players, particularly James, to play more minutes than desired to skate by while they wait for reinforcement to return.
The good news is the Lakers are finally turning the corner healthwise. Vanderbilt is available for the first time this season, Rui Hachimura is also ready to play versus the Rockets, leaving only Gabe Vincent out this weekend for the Lakers.
Hopefully, the injury bug hit early for Los Angeles this season and the rest of the year is much smoother injury-wise. Regardless, the time is fast approaching when contextualizing your record will be unjustifiable. Everyone deals with injuries. It's an unfortunate part of the game.
The Lakers were discussed as a deep roster at the start of the year and one of the reasons you create a deep roster is so that you’re not as vulnerable to injuries causing you losses. So, if the Lakers are finally healthy and losses continue to pile up, re-evaluating what this roster is and making a trade to improve it might be the next course of action.
For now, fans can be excited that the team is the healthiest they've been all year and we can finally see if they are truly one of the elite teams in the West.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.