The Los Angeles Lakers have surprised many throughout this early NBA season as they find themselves at .500 after 10 games. The catalyst for their start has surprisingly been their defense, as they rank seventh in the NBA in defensive rating.
The offense hasn’t been up to the levels of the defense, but it is beginning to make strides as the Lakers have looked much improved from a season ago. That isn’t to say there haven’t been some hiccups along the way too.
Nonetheless the Lakers are on a two-game win streak and before they get started on a tough four-game road trip, we take a look at the players who have kicked it up recently, as well as a couple who need to turn things around.
Brook Lopez: I don’t know if it’s his Disney Channel movies like Lonzo Ball suggested, but Brook Lopez has finally begun looking like the offensive force the Lakers expected. Over the last three contests, Lopez is averaging 27.3 points while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from three-point range.
Lopez has also continued to show off his rim protection capabilities as he is posting two blocks per game over the last five. He won’t ever be a top rebounder, but he does do a good job of getting a body on his opposing center which allows guys like Kuzma, Ingram, and Ball to pick them up.
With so many young players on the roster, it is great for the Lakers to have a veteran they can throw the ball into and get them a basket or draw a foul. Lopez is finally becoming that player for this young team.
Kyle Kuzma: The rookie forward continues to show that he is one of the best rookies in this loaded draft class. He was already a major piece of the Lakers’ puzzle, but he has stepped up even more since entering the starting lineup.
Kuzma’s scoring and energy adds another element that was missing with the starters. Perhaps most impressive for Kuzma is how he has really stepped up on the glass since Larry Nance Jr. went down with injury as Kuzma has posted double-doubles in both of his starts.
Nance was the Lakers’ leading rebounder so Kuzma’s rebounding work is extremely huge for this team. People are already questioning whether Kuzma should remain the starter once Nance returns and at this rate, Luke Walton will have a hard time removing him.
Brandon Ingram: Speaking of young players continuing to develop and improve, Brandon Ingram is beginning to show more consistent flashes of the player he can become.
Ingram is showing off his all-around game, averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.2 steals over the last five contests while shooting 50 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from three-point range. Against the Grizzlies, his stretch in the second quarter was the type of thing to get fans excited as he was the best player on the court, attacking the rim at will.
Ingram is still only 20 years old, but he is already beginning to look like the player the Lakers believed he could be when they drafted him last year.
Lonzo Ball: There is no way around it, Lonzo Ball’s shooting struggles are concerning. He is shooting under 30 percent from the field this season and things have only gotten worse as the season has gone on.
This isn’t to say Ball is just playing bad as he continues to make an impact in other ways. He continues to rebound the ball extremely well for a point guard, his assist numbers are fine, and he is still taking very good care of the ball.
Regardless, Ball must be an offensive threat to unlock his true potential and elevate the team. He only averaged around 14 points in college so expecting him to suddenly become a dominant scorer is unfair, but his percentages are unacceptable right now and he has to figure out a way to turn it around.
Josh Hart: The rookie has been impressive so far with his aggressive mentality especially on defense. He looks like the potential 3-and-D player he was advertised as. Unfortunately, the ‘3’ part of that has been missing lately.
Hart hasn’t made a field goal in the last three games, and is shooting only 21.4 percent over the last five. It’s not as if the Lakers are reliant on Hart’s offense on a bench unit with Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, but Hart must at least be a threat or it could hurt the rest of the lineup.
The most important thing for Hart remains his defense and he remains fine on that end, but he needs to start making shots to really be a contributor on this team.
Larry Nance Jr.: It really hurts to put Nance on this list, but unfortunately it had to happen. Nance was enjoying a career year, but injuries continue to be a major problem for him in his young career. It is becoming fair to question whether this will continue to be a problem.
Not helping matters for Nance is the excellent play of Kyle Kuzma. Nance could find himself in a reserve role when he comes back as Kuzma is playing like someone who doesn’t plan on giving up that starting role.
Whether he is starting or not, Nance will always bring energy, defense, and rebounding anytime he is on the floor. After another setback, however, Nance is in a rough spot.
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