On every LeBron James-led roster, there is always a debate over who is the No. 2 player. For the Miami Heat, it was Dwyane Wade, and on the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was Kyrie Irving.
But for the Los Angeles Lakers, the answer hasn’t been so clear. Originally, it was going to be Brandon Ingram, and while he’s showed flashes of it, there were many nights where it was Kyle Kuzma, and in some games, even Lonzo Ball.
On a roster where the second-, third- and fourth-best player are all under 23 years old, finding a consistent option behind James has proven difficult. Thus, the Lakers more times than not have relied on a collective effort and gone with the hot hand.
The strategy paid off during a stretch, as the team at one point rose to fourth place in the Western Conference standings. Kuzma believes naming a second option would have been detrimental to what the Lakers are trying to do, and highlighted the group effort, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“It’s always going to be a collective group,” Kuzma said. “Some nights, I have nights where I’m going. Some nights B.I. has it going. That’s just how basketball kind of works. So, I wouldn’t necessarily call me the second option, B.I. the second option. It’s got to be a collective effort.”
This has been a sentiment shared by the entire team since James’ arrival. Head coach Luke Walton was one of the first to say that there shouldn’t be a “pecking order” when it comes to the Lakers young core.
Though, that approach may have backfired in some sense as Ingram has been shut down for the season, Ball likely faces the same fate, and Kuzma is attempting to return from a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, James is playing reduced minutes.
That’s made finishing out a disappointing season all the more challenging for the short-handed Lakers.