The winning ingredient is missing from the Lakers Championship recipe

In LeBron James and Anthony Davis, A Lakers Not only do they have two superstars, but they have two of the most dominant, versatile, and big forward in the NBA.

LeBron, though Typically a junior striker, he often lives up to his attacking power in closing line-ups and played nearly half of his minutes last year in pole position amid an injury-strewn season and a large, inconsistent play from the rest of the squad. In the meantime, Davis can play either 4 or 5 with great confidenceswitch positions based on matches or time and score situations that affect where they need it most.

Building their team in this way, with their best players primarily roaming the front yard for most of their minutes, the Lakers are one of the most memorable teams in the league and, in my view, certainly the most recognizable star duo around. NBA. They challenge the classic big/small or winger/wing pairing in favor of a hybrid and versatile big/big model, and there really isn’t another team in the NBA that can claim a pair quite like this.

In a team built around high resilience on the front court, it makes no sense to say that one of the most important positions to fill in a team with these two specific players is the offensive position, but it is just that. As true for these Lakers as it was last year. Although LeBron and AD are both natural attackers, formations that work best usually have another player (type) forward to separate them, allowing both to improve their versatility and create match problems for their opponents by either sliding up or down A position in which they can benefit from their unique combination of skill, size and athletic performance.

One only needs to go back to the 2020 title-winning team to see how important Markiv Morris, Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green as hybrid strikers and wingers have helped their teammates in these subtle ways. Add in strong defensive guards and enough shooting power, and you’ll have the ingredients to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season.

Fast forward this season, however, and a quick examination of the roster shows that this team lacks the critical striker and/or winger who has shown the best complement to Davies and James. This is important for many reasons – to balance the roster, to be able to build more sustainable formations when Bron or AD sits, etc. – but mostly because the absence of this specific player archetype means all the things they would normally be responsible for other players on the roster. Especially in the field of defence.

And in this Lakers, that means either putting that burden back on LeBron and AD for longer periods or asking the heavy guard roster to play more than they already are. None of these solutions is ideal.

On the last point, while the Lakers have better available defensive guards this season than last season, it’s important that any of them guard as often as the Lakers roster projects they’ll need. Even for Patrick Beverly – no matter how much he tells you about his ability to do it – to be full time A wing defender against some of the game’s best (and most physical) players isn’t a solution I’d be happy to rely on for an entire season.

Don’t get me wrong, Beverly will compete aggressively and win his share of fights even against the top flankers in the league, but the financial toll of being his primary defensive role is bound to contrast with his long history of hitting ultimately, lost games.

And after Pat Beef, the protection options became even more worrisome. Do you think Kendrick Nunn will hold out and win enough of these body fights? Can Dennis Schroeder?

Austin Reeves has more size than either of them and has gotten stronger in the off-season, but I don’t think he’s reached the point where he can be relied upon to protect these players as a primary option. Ross will probably be the next most suitable ranger to scale, and thanks to a (seemingly) new attitude and encouragement from Darvin Hamm, he might be eager to give it a try. But his defensive habits have been poor for years and he will need to prove he’s a trustworthy defender again before I think that will happen.

Which brings me back to LeBron and AD.

In the Lakers’ championship season, both players were two-way monsters whose defensive focus and intensity were key factors to the team’s success on this side of the ball. Of course, they were strongly supported by Green, Kuzma, Morris and even Alex Caruso to take on their opponents. Top wing assignments. Certainly, during big moments or decisive confrontations, Bron and AD will take on these tasks for extended periods or full matches as primary defenders (for example, against Jimmy Butler in the Finals or in those high profile matches against Giannis and Bucks). But, for the most part, both players were able to do fewer singles matches to impact the game through More assistance directed to roles within the team’s defensive structure.

I find it hard to believe that could be the case this season, especially if the Lakers are going to be as good at defense as their coach wants them to be. In media availability after practice on Friday, Darvin Hamm said the initial starting group for this stage at training camp were Ross, Noon, LeBron, AD and Damien Jones.

Imagine that group against Clippers or Pelicans or Celtics.

Who defends Kouhai, George, Zion, Ingram, or Tatum and Brown? In a match with the Nets, who defends KD Simmons?

At first, it looks like these duties will fall (in most cases) LeBron’s shoulders and m. Now, maybe that’s exactly what it should be. After all, these are the Lakers’ best advocates (along with Beverly) and asking them to carry that burden is part of leading by example. And if the Lakers are going to do anything in the post-season, they will both have to be top-level defenders in their toughest encounters.

But LeBron is in his 20th season and AD is still one of the elite defenders in the NBA. I can imagine many scenarios where these types of questions are either unfair or imperfect in the context of a defensively complete team concept. However, the menu limitations may only force them into these positions more than ever.

Which leads to focusing on more questions about the minutes and managing both stars in a way that encourages them to be at their best when their best is needed.

At a media day, in response to a question about both LeBron and AD’s minutes, Ham said, “I don’t need a Bron or AD to play the minute-breaking in October, November and December. Once we establish our rotation, we look for different ways to reduce the load on their bodies, whenever possible.” “.

This, of course, is the responsible answer and is the perfect way to deal with both players – especially after successive seasons of injuries that have limited their availability. Hamm went further by adding he He coordinates the players’ game and training schedules in order to boost the health of his Stars and the rest of the cohort.

Asked about his guards’ ability to defend a position, Rob Pelinka was quick to ask how Juan Toscano Anderson and Troy Brown Jr would need to play crucial roles on the wing defensively. This is also a reasonable response and I’m here with Rob to realize the importance of both men.

But, if we are honest, these steps can only go so far. Of all the players mentioned, only Beverley plans to be a major part of the pre-season rotation. Many of this team’s best players are goalkeepers, so the Lakers may eventually have to choose between forming squads of sufficient size or sufficient talent. Effectively, this could mean choosing to improve LeBron and AD at the expense of the supporting cast, or supporting actors at the expense of peak LeBron and AD strength.

Unless the list changes in ways that strike a better balance before the deadline, it looks like LeBron and AD will have to fill in those gaps more than we’d like.

for more Lakers Speak up, subscribe to the silver screen broadcast feed and roll ItunesAnd the spotifyAnd the Stitcher or google podcast. You can follow Darius on Twitter at Tweet embed

Leave a Comment