Lakers

Kuzma, McGee, Green LA’s Key X-Factors to Tip the Final Scales

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The 2020 NBA finals matchup is locked in. The Los Angeles Lakers are set to face the Miami Heat in what is set to be an instant classic.

With both teams playing great basketball entering the finals, this is a series that truly could go either way. For the Lakers’ sake, they need more production from the following three players if they’re going to walk away as NBA champions.

JaVale McGee

Barring a change in strategy, JaVale McGee will open the series with the Lakers’ starters. After being removed from the starting five against the Houston Rockets, McGee was reinserted into that unit to begin the conference finals. After multiple games, in which he played less-than-stellar basketball, Frank Vogel again made a change.

The first time, Markieff Morris replaced McGee against the small-ball Rockets. The second time, Dwight Howard was swapped in for McGee due to his defensive capabilities against Nikola Jokic. Entering the finals, McGee is averaging just 9.7 minutes per game. His minutes won’t jump too much, but it’s likely he is playing with the starters to tip off game one.

L.A. doesn’t need a ton from McGee, but he could certainly be a difference maker for bursts. The Lakers need him to start games with energy, like he was earlier in this season. Energy, hustle and not making mistakes will leave a positive impact.

He can be a vital part of a fast start, and it starts with energy. Boxing out, contesting shots, running the floor, and hanging around the rim for lobs is really all Vogel will ask of him. If he’s able to do this, he’ll remain in the starting five. If he continues struggling, it won’t take long to get him off the floor.

Kyle Kuzma

Kyle Kuzma has been better than his stats would suggest in the playoffs. Most importantly has been his acceptance of his role on a nightly basis. He hasn’t grown frustrated by his minutes or touches, instead he has remained focused on his defensive assignments and has let the offense come to him.

With that being said, the finals will require more from him.

The Lakers haven’t played a team like the Heat yet in the playoffs. Not only do they play great team defense, they also have great individual defenders. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are going to have their hands full against the Heat’s best defenders. They’re certainly going to both get theirs against Miami, but they’re going to need some relief as well. It will help them stay fresh, give the team easier buckets, and keep everyone involved. LeBron and AD can’t be asked to attack the likes of Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Jae Crowder on every single possession.

So far in the playoffs, he’s averaging 10.5 points per game while shooting 31.5% from three. If his minutes are going to remain the same, he is going to have to do more offensively. The Heat are going to make this a physical, grind it out series, unlike any the Lakers have played so far. Kuzma needs to get to the line more (has just 1.8 FTA per game) and insert himself on more possessions.

To be an asset in this series, Kuzma needs to bump that 10.5 up closer to 15. If he can do so, the Lakers will be able to play much more efficiently on offense, even against a great defensive team like the Heat.

Danny Green

Danny Green has been his usual self during the Lakers’ playoff run so far. He’s averaging 8.1 points per game while shooting 36.4% from deep. Add in his usual defensive play, and he has been a plus for L.A. in the postseason. Still, he was brought in for a reason: to help the Lakers win a championship.

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Against the Heat, his defensive tenacity will need to be on display every night. That helps the Lakers, but they need him to knock down shots at a slightly higher clip as well. Rajon Rondo (44.8%), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (42.1%) and AD (36.6%) are all shooting better than him from three so far.

The finals are the perfect time for him to take his play to another level, and the Lakers certainly would benefit from him doing so. All season he has been incredibly streaky with his shot, but that needs to change. His experience and ability to play with stars were the main reasons he got paid a big salary for two seasons.

It’s time for Green to remind the world why he was the Lakers’ priority signing after they acquired Anthony Davis via trade.

Follow us on Twitter @LakersLead for the latest Lakers news and insight.

About Garrett Brooks

I am a Sport Management student, with experience in Basketball Training, Analytics, and events. I spend a lot of time in the Basketball world, and I hope to share some of my insights with others.

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