The Los Angeles Lakers’ three biggest challenges in the Orlando bubble

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2. Incorporating the new guys

The Los Angeles Lakers added three new players either just before the break in the season or recently. Any or all could significantly boost the team’s playoff prospects. But there are noteworthy questions to ask about each one.

Markieff Morris: he signed with the Lakers after being waived by Detroit and played in the team’s last 8 games.

In those games, he performed far worse offensively than he had for the Pistons. With Detroit he averaged 11 points on 45% shooting, 40% from behind the arc in 22.5 minutes; in LA he scored 5 points, shooting 39% and 29% from deep in 15 minutes.

It is not surprising that Morris needed time to adjust to a new role with the Lakers. Going forward, he will be asked to fill a backup power forward spot, where the team needs him to rebound, play defense and hit the open shot.

He is certainly capable of doing all that, but he’ll have to prove it on the court. (For the record, his twin brother, Marcus, suffered even more of a statistical drop-off in the 12 games he played for the Clippers).

Dion Waiters: although he was signed prior to the suspension of the season, he has yet to play a game for the Lakers.

Waiters has been a starter for much of his career and has averaged at least nine points in all nine of his NBA seasons. Except for the three games, he played his year in Miami, he has always averaged at least 24 minutes per game.

With the Lakers, however, he is unlikely to either start or play half the game. To be effective, he will have to adapt to being on the court for fewer minutes as a role player. But throughout his career, he has not been a particularly efficient shooter, connecting on just 41% of his overall field goal attempts although he has hit 35% from deep.

There is no denying that Waiters is a first-rate talent. Still, it remains to be seen how well he’ll actually fit in with the Los Angeles Lakers and how much help he will provide as he competes for playing time in a deep, crowded backcourt.

J.R. Smith: was just signed as a free agent after sitting out the past two seasons.

There has been much discussion reuniting him with James, who played together for five seasons in Cleveland. In a mostly starting role there, Smith averaged 10 points while shooting only 40% overall but 38% on three-point tries.

J.R. will turn 35 in September. At his age, after missing two years, will he be able to step right back into the NBA and assume at least some of the role he played with the Cavs? Will he still be an effective long-range shooter? Will he have slowed down so much that he is now a defensive liability?

Adding new players to a winning team can be awkward. To be successful, each will have to willingly accept a different role without disturbing team chemistry.