The Los Angeles Lakers had a tough schedule this last week as they faced the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, the Golden State Warriors (twice) and Atlanta Hawks.
Luke Walton’s squad showed their weakness of not having a lockdown defender in the Bulls game when Jimmy Butler went off for 40 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. The Lakers were able to bounce back against the Thunder even with Russell Westbrook taking over the game recording a triple-double with 38 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds.
The Warriors showed they are the best team in the NBA against the Lakers beating them by 43 and t24 points. Los Angeles ended the week by defeating a Hawks team that is struggling but is still considered a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers coming out of this week with a record of (9-9) is a win. Many Laker players stepped up this week with a few teammates suffering injuries.
Larry Nance Jr.:
The Wyoming product is one of the most important players on the Lakers’ incredible bench unit. Nance provides the Lakers with a person who is a truly a team-first player and does all the little things that many players are not willing to do. The difference is now Nance is filling up the box score while still doing the little things.
Nance is averaging 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting over 60 percent from the field. In the last week however, he is averaging 10.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 63 percent. The second-year forward is learning when and how to attack in Luke Walton’s offense which makes the team even more dangerous when he is on the floor.
The 35-year-old newcomer has been starting in place of D’Angelo Russell, who has been out with a knee injury and has been better than what many Lakers fans imagined. Calderon has been able to hit open three-pointers, provide the Lakers with a floor general and limit his turnovers.
Luke Walton can trust Calderon to start the game for the Lakers, which allows him to keep his outstanding bench unit together. In this past week Calderon is averaging 8.8 points and five assists while shooting 60 percent overall and 54.5 percent from behind the three-point line. If Calderon can continue to shoot this well, Walton might be forced to play him even when D’Angelo Russell comes back from injury, even if that means fewer minutes for Lou Williams, Nick Young or Jordan Clarkson.
The veteran guard is averaging 16.6 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.1 rebounds this season. Williams has proven to be one of the best players in the fourth quarters, averaging 7.6 points in the final period this season, fourth best in the NBA.
Williams has scored 20 or more points six times this season, and as the Lakers offense evolves, Williams is getting easier shots, so look for him to score more efficiently as the season goes on. Williams was able to play well against the Atlanta Hawks putting 21 points, four rebounds, and three assists. If Williams can keep up this type of play, he can be in the running for a second Sixth Man of the Year Award.
The Lakers have avoided the injury bug for most of this season, but this week saw a lot of players miss games due to injury. D’Angelo Russell had a PRP injection to his sore left knee and will be out for 2-3 weeks.
Also, Julius Randle missed the last three games with a hip pointer and Nick Young missed a game with a sprained toe. Those players were obviously missed as the Lakers suffered a couple of huge losses without them, but they also proved they could get some wins despite being short-handed which should make them better once they are back to full strength.
Deng has been a big disappointment to the Lakers this whole season. Deng is only averaging 6.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists after he averaged 12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists with the Heat last year. There was hope that Deng would be able to return to form while Randle was injured as he slid over to the power forward position, but Deng proved to be just as disappointing.
Unfortunately Deng still looks old. His defense has been subpar, and he just hasn’t able to consistently knock down open shots. While his season during games has been discouraging, rumors have gone around that the Timberwolves could be interested in trading for him as their coach Tom Thibodeau used to coach Deng in Chicago. Fans will just have to continue to hope Deng will eventually turn things around.
The Brazilian has not been able to find his way into the rotation even with the injuries to D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young. Huertas is a player who can make incredible passes and get others involved, but that is all he can do.
Huertas’ defense is bad, and he cannot be relied on to make an open three-point shot. With Young already back from injury, Huertas won’t be seeing too much court time anyway, and once Russell returns Huertas will basically be the last in the guard rotation, but he hasn’t shown the ability to change games when he has played.