Over much of the last two seasons, the Lakers have been forced to rely upon the brilliance of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to guide them to victories. A roster full of flawed players and minimum contracts placed a heavy burden on the Lakers stars, one their bodies largely could not withstand.
But that changed at the deadline, and the Lakers have been able to absorb the absences of its stars while still maintaining pace with the rest of the league. And when they’re both healthy? The Lakers become one of the more dangerous teams in the conference, as shown in the playoffs so far.
Saturday’s win by the Lakers pushed them to a 2-1 series lead over the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies, another example of their newfound depth. After the contest, head coach Darvin Ham spoke of the depth they have and how many players can make an impact each game.
“It’s great, man,” Ham said. “Tip your cap to (general manager) Rob (Pelinka) and all of us sitting down around the drawing board trying to see how best we can put this puzzle together. Now, having the type of weapons we have up and down the roster, now it’s just a matter of playing the right way, playing with a sense of urgency and making the right plays.
“From Austin to Dennis, we have five, six, seven guys that can have different moments during the game, positive productive moments for our team and LeBron and AD don’t have to jump in the telephone booth as much.”
So far in the playoffs, the Lakers have been led in scoring by LeBron (74 points) and AD (66) but are followed fairly closely by Rui Hachimura (65), Austin Reaves (48) and D’Angelo Russell (41). And prior to the playoffs themselves, it was Dennis Schröder who guided the Lakers through the second half of the play-in game.
There was perhaps no better sign of the improved depth the Lakers have than Game 1 when Reaves took over down the stretch to win the game as LeBron and AD watched on offensively. In the short term, it makes the Lakers a more dangerous team in the playoffs with more weapons teams have to gameplan for on top of LeBron and AD.
Looking bigger picture and long term, the Lakers have a team that can not only better absorb injuries to its two stars, but one that can allow AD and LeBron load management next season and beyond. Turns out that having more than two good players is a big positive for a team and franchise.
For now, though, the short-term is what matters, and the Lakers are going to be a tough out in the playoffs. That alone is quite the accomplishment given where this team was at points in the regular season.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.