Midseason trade acquisitions Channing Frye and Isaiah Thomas will look to help the Los Angeles Lakers extend their four-game winning streak when they make their respective debuts in the first of a three-game road trip that begins against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.
It remains to be seen how much Frye and Thomas will play in their first game with the Lakers, though it’s confirmed both are set to come off of the bench. They join a team that is not just on a winning streak, but has won 12 of their last 16 games to compile the second-best record in the league since Jan. 7, trailing only the Houston Rockets (14-2).
The Lakers have done so despite missing Lonzo Ball for that entire time, and they kept their winning streak alive against the Oklahoma City Thunder despite not having two rotation players in Larry Nance,Jr. and Jordan Clarkson after they were shipped out and not replaced by Thomas and Frye yet.
At 34 years old and shooting just 33.3 percent on 3-pointers, Frye appears unlikely to play a huge role for the Lakers, while Thomas looks set to play more and almost assuredly can’t have worse chemistry with his new teammates in Los Angeles than he did with his old ones in Cleveland.
The diminutive former-MVP candidate has been a shell of his former self this season while averaging 14.7 points per game on 36.1 percent shooting in 15 games while working his way back from hip surgery.
Thomas’ increased comfort on the Lakers might help his game, and as strange as this is to say about Los Angeles in comparison to a contender in Cleveland, the Lakers appear better suited to cover up for Thomas’ defensive limitations than the Cavaliers did, freeing him up further on offense.
However, the Lakers, who rank last in the league in 3-point shooting at 33 percent, also look less set to give Thomas the space he needs on offense than the Cavaliers theoretically offered. But Thomas’ improved attitude and continued recovery from injury should at the very least allow him to be slightly better in Los Angeles than he was in Cleveland.
That improvement might not start Saturday, however. The Mavericks may have the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record in the NBA, but they didn’t make major alterations at the trade deadline and the Lakers’ lack of chemistry with their new additions could tip things in Dallas’ favor if they get off to a hot start.
Plus, the Mavericks will be looking for revenge after the Lakers snapped a 14-game losing streak they had against Dallas in their last victory over them in January. Moreover, the Mavericks’ stable of quick guards could give the Lakers trouble, especially if the defensively inept Thomas spends too much time having to guard them and forces extra help from the Lakers at the rim.
The Lakers still should be favored against Dallas though, based on their strong recent play, and at the very least Thomas and Frye represent live bodies to give Los Angeles a bit of added depth to combat fatigue. Whether the two can play better than they did with the Cavaliers remains to be seen, and that feeling out process starts Saturday.
Los Angeles Lakers (23-31) Vs. Dallas Mavericks (17-38):
5:30 P.M. PST, February 10, 2018
American Airlines Center, Dallas Texas
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Brandon Ingram
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer, Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Alex Caruso
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: J.J. Barea
SG: Dennis Smith, Jr.
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Dwight Powell
C: Dirk Nowitzki
Key Reserves: Maximilian Kleber, Yogi Ferrell, Salah Mejri, Kyle Collinsworth
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