With the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James to initiate and set up the offense, the guards on the roster have had to step up in his absence.
Dennis Schroder has absorbed most of the playmaking duties and that has come with mixed results as he often forces things or is simply careless with the basketball.
Schroder has taken responsibility for his turnover issues, but the Lakers will need him to be better if they want to hold down the fort until James returns. And to his credit, he has begun to do that, only turning it over three total times in the last three games.
One other player who has handled the increased ball-handling role well is Alex Caruso. He is known for his defensive prowess and knack for making hustle plays, but Caruso has really started to come into his own as a lead guard.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel acknowledged before Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz that Caruso’s made visible progress with his pick-and-roll reads.
“Definitely some improvement, definitely under more control,” Vogel explained. “The added responsibility of being a playmaker has been great for his growth. He’s definitely coming off and being more efficient, more under control. Playing through his pivots more and definitely seeing some growth there.”
James and Anthony Davis make up arguably the NBA’s most dangerous pick-and-roll combination because of their blend of size, skill and overall talent. But with them still out, Caruso has had a crash course in running the offense.
While not a natural passer and distributor, the 27-year-old has looked more comfortable going through his reads and making the correct play more often than not.
Although Caruso will not be asked to run as many pick-and-rolls when James returns, it is encouraging to see him continue to grow as a player and that will only help Los Angeles as they get to the playoffs.
Vogel also highlights Talen Horton-Tucker’s growth
Aside from Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker has also made noticeable strides. The 20-year-old has improved greatly since the start of the 2020-21 season and Vogel outlined how he has specifically grown as a player.
“I think he’s just continuing to grow,” Vogel said. “We as an organization have the growth mindset with all of our players, young players and veteran players. He watches his film every day. We try to build the habits that will help him growing and succeed and be efficient and I think we have seen that over the last few weeks. He’s had some double-digit assist games. I think he’s forcing less in the paint and smarter with his shot selection on the perimeter, so we’re on him to be as efficient as possible and I do think he’s growing in that regard.”
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