In other words, Davis, besides having possibly the GOAT on his team, doesn’t have a supporting cast any better than what he had in New Orleans when he ran himself out of town.
But if you’ve got two top-5 players in the whole league on your team, does it matter what the other 10 guys do? (don’t answer that, Warriors fans.)
Look. We know LeBron and AD will excel, provided they stay healthy. What we’re really trying to answer here is if the Lakers have anywhere near enough firepower to improve a 37-45 team into the 51.5-win over/under Vegas has them projected for as the would-be 5 seed in this year’s Western Conference field.
Are they crazy? Or can two superstars really drag this squad to within a game of a home playoff Game 1 in the second round (Denver and Houston both project at 52; Utah’s at 52.5. Pass all three and the Lakers would be the 2 seed.)
Let’s…no, seriously, LOLakers. Let’s examine why this is crazy talk.
2018-19 record: 37-45
2019-20 over/under: 51.5
Stop Trying to Put Kyle Kuzma Over
Not only is Kyle Kuzma not the droid you’re looking for if you think he’s actually evolving into a quality NBA player, he actually regressed from his rookie year (on a 35-win team) to his sophomore year (on a 37-win squad.)
He went from .077 WS/48 to .065 and from 0.4 VORP to 0.2. None of those numbers are in any way congruent with a quality NBA starter no matter what the people who put up that trash can of a World Cup roster thought of his ability.
Kuzma shot a woeful 30.3 percent on six 3-pointers a game last year, and having a volume shooter on the wing who can’t shoot? Please.
Let’s just start with “Kyle Kuzma is overrated trash” and move on, shall we?
LeBron has been in the league for 16 seasons now. He has played 46,235 regular-season minutes, 10,049 playoff minutes, and a couple of thousand international minutes, putting his odometer at “Bluesmobile.”
So when he hurt his groin on Christmas Day last season and missed 27 games, shadows of Kobe Bryant‘s breakdown in 2013 come immediately to the forefront for any Lakers fan who didn’t buy their first jersey when LeBron first showed up in town.
LeBron’s body is simply starting to break down. No shame in it. He’s going to be 35 in December and has been playing NBA basketball since two months before he turned 19.
We’re going to watch his decline. He’ll be great when he’s on the floor, but he won’t be able to stay on the floor. 57,000 American minutes and nearly 60,000 minutes overall is just too many miles on the tires.
Which Brings Us To…
That’s right, Davis, a guy who if you give him a hard look, he misses 10 games.
Davis has never played more than 75 games in a season, but the average of 66 games he’s played in his seven years in the league, with most of his games-played total bracketing that mark fairly closely, tells you everything you need to know about the guy.
How is this Lakers roster supposed to cope when it’s a nearly odds-on cinch that LeBron and AD will be in the same lineup 50 times at most, if not less than half the season?
…And the Rest of the Roster is a Garbage Fire
The corpse of DeMarcus Cousins, “legends” like Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, standard-issue hot messes like JaVale McGee, and the Boban-like enthusiasm for Alex Caruso despite Caruso having no identifiable basketball talent whatsoever?
Yes, Danny Green is on this team, but let’s face it. Last year’s 45.5 percent mark from long range was not because Green is basically Steve Kerr (career 3-point mark: 45.4 percent, an NBA record) but because he played in a Toronto offense where he feasted on open looks thanks to the ability of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam to keep the defense’s attention and Kyle Lowry‘s ability to distribute the basketball.
In theory, I just described LeBron, AD, and Rajon Rondo. In practice, one of the first two will be hurt and the third ain’t what he used to be.
So How Is This Team Supposed to Win 51 Games?
If their two superstars stay healthy, if their role players play out of their minds, and if the rest of the Western Conference collapses around them, they could be awesome.
There has never been a bigger disconnect between the hype surrounding a team and the team’s actual on-paper talent than this year’s Lakers, who have two great players, one good one coming off a mind-blowing career year, and a bunch of scraps. They have zero depth. Their bench will blow leads. Their starters will be a MASH unit. There is no plausible way this team will win 51 games, and I’m not wholly convinced they’ll even make the playoffs.
After all, Davis has been a Great Stats Bad Team guy his whole career. He made the playoffs twice in seven years in New Orleans, while better players than he is dragged teams to the playoffs by themselves (Russell Westbrook in 2017, just for example.)
Hell, speaking of Westbrook, one of those playoff appearances (in 2014) only happened because the Thunder couldn’t keep Russ and Kevin Durant on the floor at the same time, and even THAT team didn’t crash out of the 8 seed until the last day of the regular season.
Oh, and did I mention Frank Vogel hasn’t been a good NBA head coach since he had Paul George and Danny Granger on his team and Roy Hibbert was still in his rim-protecting elite prime? The last couple of years of his Orlando tenure (and Steve Clifford’s ability to turn that team around in his first year with functionally the same roster) ought to tell you something, and they hired Vogel only when Tyronn Lue turned them down.
LOLakers. Are they good? No. Busted. Under. Slam dunk of a pick.
NEXT: Sacramento Kings.