Assessing The Depth of The Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his dunk against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The depth of the Los Angeles Lakers is a huge reason why they are still afloat in the Western Conference. After the injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the team’s role players have stepped up and put the league on notice. One crucial factor is the ability to score individually.

Last season, the Lakers were the best team in the NBA, winning the 2019-2020 NBA Finals. However, their team could not score alone. Players, such as Danny Green or Dwight Howard, contributed heavily to the strong defense, but they could not create their offense. Some exceptions were Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma, who were capable of creating space.

The team only had two options. The first option focused on LeBron James. It was either let LeBron drive to the basket or draw pressure from the defense and kick it out to a wide-open shooter.

The second option included passing the ball to Anthony Davis in the post and allowing him to get to work. These two options produced almost all of the Lakers’ offense.

However, the Lakers got rid of many of their players in return for players who could create their shot. Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and Javale Mcgee did not make the cut. The organization wanted players to alleviate pressure off of James and Davis and create depth in their roster. These players can create their own shots and contribute to holding the Lakers’ playoff spot.

Dennis Schroder

Apr 17, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) goes up for a basket in the second half of the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Schroder has taken a hit in terms of his averages ever since he joined the lakers. Last year, he averaged 18.9 points and 4.0 assists per game. This year his scoring average has dropped to 15.4 points per game.

However, Schroder’s average is low because he played with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As a role player, it is expected that his averages would drop playing with two future Hall of Famers. But after the injuries to James and Davis, Schroder has stepped up as the primary star of the Lakers.

The essential factor that Schroder adds is his ability to create his own offense. He does not need LeBron James to draw three defenders to get an open shot at the three-point line. Instead, Schroder can cut through the defense himself for an easy layup or a mid-range shot. He is a significant contributor to the depth of the Lakers.

Andre Drummond

Apr 17, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) guards Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond (2) in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers recently acquired Andre Drummond from free agency after the Cavaliers offered him a buyout. Along with Schroder, Drummond’s averages have also dropped since he became a Laker. On the Cavs, Drummond averaged 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. As a Laker this season, he is averaging 11.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

However, Drummond is an essential piece to the Lakers. Yes, it is clear that Drummond is not his old self from the Pistons, but he elevates the Lakers defensively and offensively.

Drummond is one of the best rebounding centers in the NBA. His rebounding helps the Lakers’ offense through put-backs or other second-chance opportunities. However, his most significant skill is his ability to score on his own. The Lakers usually throw Drummond into the paint and feed him the ball in the post.

In the post, Drummond can create a hook shot or some other variation to score. His offense is very different from the Lakers last year. Howard and Mcgee did not play in the post creating their own shots, but rather only caught lobs. Yes, Drummond can catch lobs too, but he can add more by creating his own space.

Montrezl Harrell

Apr 17, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell (15) is defended by Utah Jazz forward Juwan Morgan (16) as he drives to the basket in the first half of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The trend of lower averages on the Lakers remains consistent with Montrezl Harrell. He averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on the Clippers last season. This year he is averaging 13.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

However, Harrell has been superb for the Lakers this season. The former Sixth-Man of the Year is dominant in the paint. Like Drummond, he can dominate in the post and recently implemented a close-range shot into his game.

Harrell can create his own offense, and he comes off the bench to support the team’s second unit. Although he is smaller than most power forwards and centers, Harrell contributes to the Lakers’ offense by supporting himself and alleviating pressure from his teammates.

Kyle Kuzma

Apr 19, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) dribbles the ball past Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (23) during the third quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kuzma is one of two players on this list who played for the Lakers last season and this season. Therefore, his averages from last season to now are pretty similar. He averaged 12.8 points in the 2019-2020 NBA season. This year he is averaging 12.9 points per game.

Kuzma was one of the exceptions for the Lakers last season. He was able to create his shots, but he was very inconsistent. However, his inconsistency does not matter as much this season due to the depth of the roster. There are many more players on the roster that can pick up his load if he underperforms.

Regardless, Kuzma is excellent for the Lakers’ offense. He is the best shooter on this list and can score from anywhere on the court. His talents elevate the team by adding another dangerous weapon to the offense and improving the depth of the team.

Talen Horton-Tucker

Apr 15, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker (5) moves the ball against Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Talen Horton-Tucker has progressed very well for Frank Vogel and the Lakers.

“Last year, Alex was my secret weapon; this year, Talen�s my secret weapon.”

-Frank Vogel

Horton-Tucker is the secret weapon for the Lakers, and he has stepped up hugely. Yes, his averages are pretty low, but this is only his second year in the NBA. Also, learning alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis has helped him immensely.

For a sophomore in the NBA, his basketball IQ is remarkable. He knows when to create shots for his teammates or when to take the ball for himself.

Most importantly, Talen Horton-Tucker is so much more than a catch and shoot player. He can score on his own and drive to the paint efficiently. Also, his defense has progressed nicely and constantly shows why he is more than a G-League player.

The Los Angeles Lakers have many weapons as they hold the 5th seed in the Western Conference. The depth allows Davis and James to take a backseat as they recover from their injuries.

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