Lakers

Lakers Grades at the All-Star Break

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An NBA season for a team can typically be split into two sections: pre- and post-All-Star break. For the Los Angeles Lakers, however, the pre-All-Star break can be split into various phases.

Nonetheless, the Lakers are finally discovering their identity and ride into the All-Star break winning six of their last seven games. The LeBron JamesAnthony Davis era hasn’t seen its brightest days in a few years, but things are certainly trending upwards in LA.

With that being said, let’s grade some important Lakers through the “first half” of the season.

LEBRON JAMES: B+

You’ve heard it all year. It’s his 21st season and he shows no sign of slowing down. LeBron continues to defy father time and is an integral part of this Lakers core. A ‘B+’ is by no means a bad grade, especially for a 39-year-old. But if you’ve been watching Los Angeles this season, James has noticeably regressed in terms of his physical ability. That hasn’t hindered his statistical output, though.

When you see 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists, you instantaneously think ‘All-Star’. When you consider that this player has also played in nearly 90-percent of his team’s games, you then think All-NBA.

To put it lightly, James has been that good. But his team hasn’t.

ANTHONY DAVIS: A

It was evident prior to this season that Davis had to be one of the 10-best guys in the league if the Lakers wanted to contend. He did that. And to be quite frank, Davis has defied all of the inclinations place on him by the media in past years.

They call him injury prone, ‘street clothes’,’ yet he’s only missed four games this entire season.

Davis is averaging 24.9 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. Many speculate that he’s not capable of leading this team as its best player but that’s exactly what he’s done thus far.

Davis this season has not only garnered attention as one of, if not the league’s best defenders, but has evolved into a more versatile player offensively, displaying unprecedented playmaking ability averaging 5.1 assists in his last 15 games.

The Lakers haven’t played to the best of their abilities yet. But Davis has been having the best — and healthiest — season of his Lakers tenure.

AUSTIN REAVES: B-

Austin Reaves was expected to make yet another leap this season. Following a spectacular playoff run, Reaves comfortably solidified himself as LeBron and AD’s third guy.

Despite a very rough start to the season, Reaves has lived up to the hype on any given night. He is also without a doubt exceeding his contractual value ($13.5 mil/year).

Averaging career highs in nearly every category, Reaves was one of the few victims or Darvin Ham‘s early-season proclivities. As soon as Reaves regressed to begin the season, he was sent to the bench. His role fluctuated.

He was not only tasked with being the primary playmaker in a second unit, but was separated from one of his closest teammates — D’Angelo Russell.

Since Russell re-entered the starting lineup on Jan. 13, the ‘Vanilla Ice’ guard duo has been averaging 41.0 points and 12.8 assists per game. The Lakers were 11-6 in that stretch.

D’ANGELO RUSSELL: B+

What an up-and-down season it’s been for Russell. Only a select few players are able to juggle the Los Angeles market, constant trade talks and a severely mismanaged role in the span of a few months.

Aside from a treacherous December — when he got benched and his usage split in half — Russell has been a key to unlocking the Lakers’ offense.

The season was looking bleak for D-Lo. It was evident that his time with LA would soon be up. So what did he do? He started not to care and played his game.

Russell averaged 23.4 points and 6.9 assists per game on 46.6/46.0/88.9 shooting splits. Read that stat line again. It wasn’t just a two-week hot streak. It was Russell finally figuring out his role and most importantly— being aggressive.

Should he continue this level of play, Los Angeles may be one of the most feared teams in the West.

DARVIN HAM: D+

Where to begin with Darvin Ham.

The second-year head coach was deservedly praised for his contributions in the turnaround last season. Being a player coach can only get you so far. And this season showed that that was maybe all he had going for him.

The Lakers were labeled as one of the deepest rosters in the association prior to the season. Certainly with this amount of talent LA wouldn’t be fighting for a play-in spot post-All-Star break right? Wrong.

Between his inability to optimize his role players through a structured system and clinging onto players and lineups that repeatedly failed, Ham’s weaknesses shined bright through the early part of this season.

It took him months to commit to the Russell-Reaves-Vanderbilt-James-Davis lineup that grew strong chemistry over the course of last season. It took him even longer than that to finally let go of Taurean Prince.

With that being said, his evolution over the weeks leading up to the All-Star break have been nothing short of miraculous. The offense looks smooth, players comfortable, rotations respectable, and most importantly, the team seems bought in. As long as Ham can continue to improve upon his current momentum, the Lakers are in good shape to make another run.

ROB PELINKA: B

In a vacuum, Rob Pelinka’s offseason was a good one. He improved a roster that made a run to the Western Conference Finals. And when the season turned awry, he made a necessary upgrade for Spencer Dinwiddie. Not bad, right?

Well, some would disagree.

Fans and members of the media implored Pelinka to make a massive trade for Dejounte Murray to salvage the season. Would the trade really have fixed things, though? Could this roster go through two consecutive years of turnover?

I don’t think so. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that Rob has to currently worry about is losing D’Angelo Russell for nothing this offseason, which was a reasonable reason that fans wanted him traded. But the roster is finally starting to turn a page and the next move should be to blow that up? Again?

Pelinka made the right move standing pat at the trade deadline. Not to mention, he got a considerable bench upgrade for free on the buyout market.

Looking forward, he now has three first-round picks to work with this summer as they try and target players like Trae Young and Donovan Mitchell.

The Lakers seem to be turning a necessary corner as the regular season starts up again. Players know their roles and are proficient in them. The season didn’t start off ideal, yes. But if LA can continue playing the brand of basketball they’ve displayed over the last month, they’ll be a nightmare for any first round matchup (…except Denver).

About Connor Moreno

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