Should the Lakers be worried?

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Are the Lakers still title favorites? Fred from Simi Valley, via Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons License.

The Los Angeles Lakers have hit a rough patch this season, losing 4 out of 5 recently. This tough stretch is coinciding with Anthony Davis getting sidelined due to injury. An ESPN report on Davis’s calf strain and aggravated Achilles tendinosis notes that the star big man is expected to miss at least 4 weeks, with a re-evaluation in 2 to 3 weeks. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel says the team plan to take a conservative approach with Davis’s sore leg to “make sure that it’s fully healed before he’s back.” So, it is likely, that the Purple and Gold will be without their second best player for an even longer period, thus putting immense pressure on leader LeBron James and the rest of the roster.

Given this dire development, should the Lakers be worried?

The answer is no. But they do need to be concerned. Davis’s injury is the type that can potentially lead to a torn Achilles, the same one suffered by Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant in game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals. This is why the Lakers are dealing with this injury conservatively, in hopes that Davis doesn’t suffer the same fate as Durant. Then again, even the slightest miscalculation or mismanagement of Davis’s rehabilitation could result in a much more serious, and possibly season ending injury.

Davis missing time means an increased burden on LeBron (25.8 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, 8.1 assists), who will have to shoulder much of the playmaking duties in Davis’s absence. This is something the Lakers don’t want, as overtaxing LeBron in the regular season (he is already playing 35 minutes an outing) might leave him gassed in the postseason. But LeBron will do it anyway to make sure the Lakers don’t fall in the standings anymore than they should.

With the All-Star Game nearing, the Lakers are rock-solid at 22-10 — good for 3rd in the mighty West. They also remain the clear favourites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at season’s end, mainly due to the ‘Bron-Brow connection, and a roster that is much improved from last season thanks to the additions of Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews. History even seems to favour the Purple and Gold, with a Bwin post on which team will win the NBA Championship this season outlining how their previous finals appearance in 2009 saw the team winning another title the following year. Meaning, the Lakers have repeated as champs before, and they have a great chance of replicating that feat this season even with this minor hiccup.

That said, expect the Lakers to make some midseason moves, like reacquiring DeMarcus Cousins, who was recently waived by the Houston Rockets. The veteran big is rumoured to be headed back to the Purple and Gold, where he could add frontline depth in the absence of Davis. Another big man, Blake Griffin, might soon become available, as he will likely be waived by the Detroit Pistons. The former Slam Dunk champ figures to be an intriguing option for the Lakers, though teams like the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are purportedly interested in Griffin should he become available.

Another option for the Lakers is to trade for the Sacramento King’s Hassan Whiteside. CBS Sports reports that trading for Whiteside is becoming the team’s priority (much more than resigning Cousins), as he could bring regular season value with his prolific shot blocking — something the Lakers sorely miss without Davis’s 1.8 blocks per game.

Of course, the Lakers don’t need any major upgrades; they just need someone to help hold the fort while Davis takes his time recovering from his injury. Once he returns to full strength, all will be well again in Laker Land.


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