1. The Los Angeles Lakers are less reliant on LeBron James and Anthony Davis
Last season, one of the biggest knocks on the Los Angeles Lakers was their over-reliance on their two superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As a result, for much of the season, I lived in perpetual fear of being one injury away from fading into obscurity.
If someone were to travel back in time to six months ago to tell me that through 14 games this season, LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be averaging 24.1 and 21.7 points per game respectively, I would guess that the Lakers’ record would be something like 6-8. Maybe 8-6 as a best-case scenario.
Despite the two superstars starting the season slowly, the Lakers have somehow recorded the best record in the league to date – a testament to the incredible depth of this iteration of the team.
With Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell joining the team in the offseason, the Lakers have added two role-players with the ability to score the ball at a high level. Schroder also offers secondary playmaking that isn’t an offensive liability, something the Lakers often struggled with whenever LeBron James went to the bench last season.
A lot of the other roleplayers have helped pick up the slack from Davis and LeBron. Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol have already proven to be shrewd signings, and last year’s playoff hero Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been in career-best form.
This has resulted in the Lakers’ having the best net rating in the NBA, with an incredible average +/- of 11.0. I expect some minor regression from a few of the role players, but that’ll be mitigated by the positive regression I expect will occur to both LeBron’s and AD’s scoring.
Some may dispute the legitimacy of the Lakers’ early-season dominance by claiming that their schedule to-date has been an easy one.
However, this year’s squad has consistently won games by large margins with their two superstars not playing their best basketball. Not only that, but they’ve gone 2-0 in games that Anthony Davis has missed.
Contrast this with last year’s team, which often didn’t the depth or firepower to overcome poor scoring nights from LeBron and AD, and this has clearly been an area of notable growth for the team this year.
I’d argue that this already makes the 2020-21 Los Angeles Lakers a better team than their predecessors. However, this season they’ve also managed to turn their single biggest weakness into one of the team’s biggest strengths.