Lakers

New-Look Lakers Face Slow Process to End Game

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Heading into the NBA’s 75th season, the Los Angeles Lakers are among those depicted as early favorites to win the Western Conference.

After acquiring former MVP and nine-time all-star guard Russell Westbrook via trade from the Washington Wizards this summer, the Lakers finally got their big three.

But making the trio of Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis work as a well-oiled machine has been a struggle through the team’s first seven games.

Not-So-Great Start

Losses against two pacific division rivals to start the season — Golden State and Phoenix — were ones to forget. After two-straight wins over Memphis and San Antonio, however, things started trending in the right direction. Russ had just played his best game in a Lakers’ uniform and Davis continued posting his dominant stat lines.

All this happening while LeBron gets the chance to rest an ankle injury he sustained in the team’s victory against Memphis.

Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team was looking to move above .500 for the first time this season. Instead, they blew a 26-point lead and suffered their third loss in five games. Prior to this collapse, the Lakers had been perfect when holding a lead of 25 points or more during any part of a game over the last 25 seasons.

The next two games allowed the Lakers to find their footing again, however. LeBron made his return to the lineup after his two-game absence and the team responded in a massive way. The Lakers took down both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets by double digits, and the the big-three seemed to be more in-sync during each game.

Head coach Frank Vogel still has a lot on his plate in terms of making sure his superstar trio maintains this success and should consider the following lineup adjustments.

Moving Westbrook to Sixth-Man Role

The Los Angeles native has had an up-and-down start to begin his Lakers’ career, averaging 18.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.

Averaging a near triple-double is nothing new for Westbrook, but he has not looked comfortable while doing so. Russ did manage to post his first triple-double of the season versus the Thunder, but also committed 10 turnovers in the process. Westbrook has seemed to find his groove these past two games, but he may in fact be even more effective in the sixth-man role.

This would give Westbrook the freedom of running the second-team offense and provide immediate scoring off the bench. Running the fast break is something Russ has always exceled at throughout his career, and he would have many more opportunities to get downhill with the second unit.

Playing alongside Carmelo Anthony would be great for Westbrook as well. Anthony seems to have found his shot this season, connecting on 52.2 percent from deep and 50 percent from the field.

Forcing Russ to fit in with LeBron and AD right away is limiting his strengths and exposing his weakness as an outside shooter. As the Lakers’ sixth man, he will not only benefit the team in the long run, but allow for a much easier transition into the offense with James and Davis.

Keep Monk in the Rotation

Shooting guard Malik Monk has been an absolute steal for the Lakers since signing with team in the offseason. Having played his first couple of years in Charlotte, his talents seem to have been under-utilized. A player that can shoot the three-ball at a good percentage while being able to create his own shot is someone the Lakers have desperately needed.

Originally thought of as just another three-point shooter off the bench, Monk relished in his starting role when LeBron was out.

His coming-out game in a Lakers uniform came against the Grizzlies, posting 12 points and four assists with a plus/minus of +19 in 21 minutes off the bench in the victory. Monk came back the next night to have an even-better night in an overtime victory over the Spurs.

The 23-year-old drew his first start of the season, pouring in 17 points and was a game-high +31 in 39 minutes of play. Despite losing playing time now that LeBron has returned, Vogel should still keep Monk heavy in the rotation, as the former University of Kentucky stand-out is on pace for a career year.

Looking Ahead

The Lakers are riding on back-to-back wins looking to make it three straight Tuesday night as they run it back with the Rockets. Carmelo Anthony will look to continue his scoring resurgence off the bench along with Westbrook becoming more comfortable within the offense.

Staying consistent throughout the entirety of games seems to be the team’s biggest weakness and one the team should be able to fix as the season progresses. This may have not been the start of the season the team envisioned, but one that can easily be turned around with making the necessary lineup adjustments.

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

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About Gabriel Mungaray

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