With Thanksgiving upon us, the entire country is encouraged to take a moment and be thankful for all of the things that we have, and then go buy all of the things we don’t on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Irony aside, Thanksgiving is all about taking stock of what’s good in our lives. We take a breath, reflect, and appreciate. It’s good for the soul, as sometimes we can become so wrapped up in the hustle, bustle, and stress of the modern world that we forget to stop and smell the roses.
Similarly, Los Angeles Lakers fans can get so absorbed by rebuilding, criticizing rotations, and debating whether or not Lonzo Ball’s jumper makes him a bust (it doesn’t), that we lose sight of all of the good things happening around us.
With that in mind, here are five things for Lakers fans to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Brandon Ingram- The forgotten man. With Ball and Kyle Kuzma dominating most Lakers discussions, Ingram has become something of an afterthought.
This is a mistake, as Ingram has grown by leaps and bounds since his rookie season and is showing real flashes of brilliance. He is scoring nearly 15 points per game while also while grabbing 5.4 boards and dishing three assists.
Ingram’s stats are up across the board and he’s quickly developing his ability to attack the basket off the dribble and using the Pterodactyl wings he calls arms to finish over defenders. If he can add a 3-point shot (30 percent for the season) he has a chance to be special, especially when one considers that he is actually younger than this year’s rookie class despite being drafted two summers ago.
Defense- Last season, the Lakers were the worst defensive team in basketball. Teams looked thrilled to run their offense in L.A. because the knew they would generate good shots with plenty of frequency.
What a difference a year makes. This season, Los Angeles shockingly comes in as the fourth-best defensive team in the entire league. They are using their cadre of tall, versatile players to switch everything, which is allowing them to contest shots at a high level.
We still see mistakes from time to time, and it’s possible that some of this success will fade as the sample size grows larger, but with each passing game, the Lakers defense becomes more and more real.
Luke Walton Making Adjustments- For the last few years, Lakers fans have become accustomed to criticizing their coaches. Byron Scott, in particular, drew the ire of many with his on-court schemes and off-court statements that appeared to be out of touch with the modern game.
Walton, all but immune to such criticisms in his debut last season, has started to catch some flak for his rotations and lack of three point shooting, with the latter reminding some of the departed Scott, Walton isn’t a reincarnation of his predecessor.
Yet, Walton has reason to have his team not shoot many threes, as they simply aren’t very good at them. The offense is still unacceptably poor (28th in the league currently), but Walton is making adjustments, as evidenced by the recent uptick in minutes for Julius Randle, who is having a career year.
Like Ingram, Walton isn’t perfect, but he’s getting better.
Fast-break basketball– With Magic Johnson in charge and Ball in the fold, it was only a matter of time before the Lakers were flying up and down the court again. The team operates with essentially two goals: 1. Get stops and 2. Run like hell.
The Lakers play at the third-fastest pace in the entire league. Their half-court offense isn’t particularly effective, so they run whenever possible in order to get points in transition. It isn’t always pretty, but at times, a Lakers fast break can be a thing of beauty. It’s in it’s infancy, but it feels like basketball is becoming fun again.
Kyle Kuzma- What can we say that hasn’t already said? Kuzma was the steal of the NBA Draft with the 27th overall pick, and a legitimate argument could be made that he would be selected in the top five if a re-draft were done today.
Kuzma still has a ways to go and is at the older end of his draft class at 22 years, but his transition to the NBA game has been seamless.
He’s second among all rookies in scoring and leads the Lakers in that category with 16.8 points per game and his versatility to shoot outside (36 percent from three) has opened up the paint for his Lakers teammates.
As if that isn’t enough, Kuzma switches readily on defense and accepts the challenge to take on guards, bigs, and anyone in between. On a Lakers team that needs all the young building blocks it can get, Los Angeles found something special in Kuzma.
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