At 3-4, the Los Angeles Lakers have not gotten off to the kind of start they envisioned. Not after what was widely regarded as one of the better offseasons around the NBA.
The harsh reality, however, is that it might not have been as good as advertised.
“They’re not as deep as they thought they were,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” on November 8. “A Lakers fan would yell at me, ‘Well, we’re down three players.’ That’s but that’s true. But they’re not as resilient as they [thought].”
Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka earned rave reviews for his moves dating back to last season’s trade deadline. Then, the Lakers added key pieces D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt with Rui Hachimura added just before them.
Vanderbilt has been out since the first game of the preseason. Hachimura is returning from a four-game absence in concussion protocol.
They also extended Vanderbilt and re-signed Hachimura, Russell, and Austin Reaves all to set themselves up with championship-caliber depth, something head coach Darvin Ham was rather proud of in the lead-up to the season, citing the need for all of the pieces to jell to reach their ceiling.
Darvin Ham Touted Lakers’ Depth Ahead of Slow Start
“I think the sky is the limit for what we will be able to do,” Ham said, per Leonard Solms of ESPN
on August 14. “I think we added a lot of depth, a lot of guys that have skill, size and athleticism, so I look forward to all of that coming together.”
That hasn’t happened with the Lakers’ bench ranked 30th in scoring.
“They wanted to play LeBron [James] less minutes … because they thought they had depth after their offseason,” Windhorst said. “Maybe it’ll show up later but it hasn’t shown up yet.”
“I don’t think they’re missing any one thing right now, they just need more time to gel,” retired three-time former Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford wrote for NBA.com on November 7. “It’s going to take time and they’ll need to somehow manage LeBron’s minutes over the course of the season before they get ramped up for the playoffs.”
The Lakers wanted to keep James under 30 minutes per game, at least through the early going of the season. It’s a plan that James was reluctantly accepting of. It also did not last long with the 21-year star only failing to surpass that limit in the opener.
He has averaged 37 minutes per game since.
Anthony Davis Battling Through Hip Injury
The Lakers’ depth has mostly fallen short of expectations so far. But Anthony Davis should be taking the reins from James as the Lakers’ best player. But Davis is dealing with a hip injury that intermittently knocked him out of the loss to the Miami Heat.
Davis says he is “feeling better” ahead of the November 8 tilt against the Houston Rockets.
That is certainly good news for the Lakers as they look to shake off their slow start. But they have posted a minus-7.7 net rating in Davis’ minutes this season, per Cleaning The Glass.