Los Angeles Lakers: 3 midseason takeaways from 2019-20

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

1. The supporting cast is far better than predicted

Much-maligned and often criticized Rob Pelinka, who was recently promoted to Vice President of Basketball Operations, deserves huge credit for assembling a roster essentially from scratch beyond James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma.

Centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard have combined to play 37 minutes a game while posting stats of nearly 15 points, 13.4 rebounds and three blocks per game and shooting 68% from the field.

Not many teams are getting that kind of production from their 5’s, especially from a pair of low-cost, overlooked veterans. They’ve even made five of their eight 3-point shots, although that sharp marksmanship is a bit fluke-ish and is unlikely to persist. But the team should be able to continue to depend on them for defense, rebounding and inside scoring.

Backcourt players Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso have all been steady contributors in various aspects of the game.

  • Green and KCP are the team’s two best long-range volume shooters (connecting on 38% and a career-best 43% respectively) and have both played outstanding perimeter defense, often essentially being used at small forward in a three-guard lineup. Together they combine for 18.3 points per game.
  • Bradley sets the tone defensively when he takes on the opponent’s point guard and chips in with eight PPG. His defensive presence was missed while he was out with a leg injury.
  • Rondo settles the offense, especially when James is resting. He is second on the team in assists, 5.4 per game, and is scoring 7.6 PPG while shooting a respectable 35% from beyond the arc.
  • Caruso does a little bit of everything. He disrupts the opponent defensively, scores efficiently (recently raising his three-point percentage to 36.6%) while playing three positions- shooting guard, point guard and small forward.

Less-frequently used Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels and Jared Dudley have all been ready when called upon. Each of the three end-of-the-bench players knows and understands his role on the team. In particular, each is a solid 3-point threat, connecting on 37%, 38% and 48%, respectively, from distance.

Although Kuzma has yet to be a consistent offensive force, he has had his moments and is a threat to score 20+ points in any given game. He is also one of the few Lakers able to create his own shots. He is third on the team in scoring, 13 PPG, and should increase that in the second half.

Beyond Kuzma and the 52.5 PPG from Davis and James, six other Lakers average 7.0 to 9.5 PPG and three more average between 4.7 and 5.7. Four players grab at least 5.9 rebounds, led by AD’s 9.4. Seven play at least 20 minutes a game, and three others at least 17.

Together, the 13 players feature two superstars backed-up by a deep, versatile supporting cast, easily exceeding the production and effectiveness that pundits predicted. And there is no reason to expect a drop-off in the season’s second half.