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After a Strong First Half of the Season, How Do Lakers Become Better Team?

Since they struck out at the trade deadline, misjudged the Darren Collison situation, and so far have not pursued anybody in the buyout market, the obvious question is how do the Los Angles Lakers become a better team?

That’s the challenge facing head coach Frank Vogel and his coaching staff as the Lakers’ front office stood pat while their major competitors all made moves to improve their rosters heading into the second half of the season. The balance of power may have shifted as the Clippers added Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, the Bucks Marvin Williams, the Rockets DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green, and the Mavericks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Barring a last minute buyout of Moe Harkless, the Lakers only option to improve and become a better team could be through their current roster, which posted the league’s second best record the first half of the season. Considering how well the Lakers played the first half and the chemistry and synergy they developed as a team, standing pat and counting on internal growth and development to get better might be a smart strategy.

Whether the Lakers can improve and become a better team the second half of this season will depend on the strategic adjustments Frank Vogel and his staff make. Despite having the second best record in the league and leading the West by five games in the loss column, the Lakers suffered losses to the Clippers and Bucks that exposed several major weaknesses that could make them vulnerable the second half of the season and in the playoffs.

Here are the Lakers’ four major weakness and what they need to fix those weaknesses and become a better team the second half of the season and in the playoffs and hopefully win their seventeenth NBA championship:

  1. A second playmaker who can run the offense when LeBron James is not on the court and carry part of the load when he is on the court.
  2. A third reliable scorer who can get the team 15 to 20 points per game to comcomplement the scoring of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
  3. A competent bigger wing defender than Danny Green or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to help guard bigger elite scorers like Kawhi Leonard.
  4. A dynamic small ball lineup to stop teams from packing the paint and allow James and Davis to run pick-and-rolls and attack the rim.

While it would have been easier to fix these problems by adding a proven experienced second playmaker, third scorer, elite wing defender, or small ball center, the Lakers probably don’t have that option at this point in time. Fortunately, they do have a deep, versatile, and talented roster with players capable of making solid contributions toward solving these problems if given more minutes or a different role to play or deployed differently.

Frank Vogel and his staff have done a terrific job the first half of the season but the Lakers’ front office’s decision not to make changes via the trade deadline or buyout market have shifted the pressure to the coaching staff. That means Frank Vogel and his coaching staff will have to get creative and figure out which of their existimg personnel and what major adjustments in strategy can be used to solve or compensate for the team’s weaknesses.

So who are key players on the Lakers’ current roster whom Frank Vogel will need to empower in order to solve or compensate for the team’s need for a second playmaker, third scorer, elite wing defender, and small ball center? And what specific changes in strategy and rotations will head coach Vogel and his staff have to deploy for those players to be able to have the impact needed to solve or compensate for the Lakers’ four major weaknesses?

  1. Anthony Davis will need to play more small ball center, including closing games, to create space against teams like the Clippers and Rockets.
  2. Alex Caruso will need to replace Rajon Rondo as the team’s second playmaker both with and without LeBron James on the floor.
  3. Kyle Kuzma will need minutes to solidify his role as the team’s third scorer and improve his defense against bigger opposing wing scorers.
  4. Lakers may need to double bigger opposing wing scorers like Harden, Leonard, and Antetokounmpo to force them to give up the ball.

While these three players will have a major role in the Lakers’ plans to become a better team the second half of the season, it will take a teamwide effort to solve the problems exposed during the first half of the season. Anthony Davis may not want to play the five to close games, Alex Caruso may struggle to become the second playmaker, and Kyle Kuzma may fail to become the reliable third scorer and bigger wing defender needed.

But there’s also a good chance Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel and his staff will succeed and Anthony Davis will thrive closing games at the five with LeBron at the four and Kuzma, Caruso, and Green surrounding him, Alex Caruso will become better as a second playmaker creating opportunities for teammates, and Kyle Kuzma will grow and flourish and become the third reliable scorer and bigger wing defender the Lakers desperately need.

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