LeBron James has set his sights on the final 23 games of the regular season as being the most important of his career, and so far the Lakers have been making progress with a reshaped roster. In their first game back after a one-week break, the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors 124-111, improving their record to 28-32 overall and 3-1 since the reshuffle. Despite being 13th in the Western Conference, they are just 1 1/2 games behind the Warriors for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament.
James’ expectations for these last few games were high, and the Lakers have proven that they have the depth and versatility to back up the talk. While James had a tough game against the Warriors, scoring a season-low 13 points on 5-for-20 shooting, the Lakers’ revamped supporting cast stepped up and scored a season-high 68 points. Led by Malik Beasley, who drilled seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points, six other Lakers scored in double figures. Austin Reaves, who had 17 points, including 13 in the third quarter, spearheaded the team’s reserves.
The Lakers have been a top-heavy unit for the past two seasons, with James and Anthony Davis required to be brilliant each night for a win. This season, however, the Lakers have made several additions, including Russell, Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, and Mo Bamba. This reshaped roster has given the Lakers the requisite depth, versatility, and firepower to better withstand poor performances from their stars.
Adding the new pieces has brought balance to the team and given them confidence in their entire roster. The new players have brought different things to the team, which has given it new energy, with many saying the vibes are at an “all-time high.” Beasley’s 3-point shooting is particularly welcomed, as the Lakers currently rank 28th in 3-point makes per game, 24th in 3-point attempts per game, and 26th in 3-point percentage. He has unlocked new wrinkles in the Lakers’ offense, as he can shoot out of spot-ups, relocations, and off screens.
The depth of the Lakers has also given James and Davis much-needed rest. Both superstars have logged fewer than 30 minutes in the last two games, and the Lakers have been able to rest them in blowout wins. This will allow them to shoulder a larger burden later in the season, particularly when the Lakers need them in the playoffs.
The Lakers have shown great promise in their new lineup, and if they can continue to build on this momentum, they may have a good chance of making it to the playoffs. They have a tough schedule ahead, but with their new depth and the old strengths of James and Davis, they may be able to finish the season strong.