As expected, the Los Angeles Lakers front office has once again moved the goal posts for making a final decision on trading Russell Westbrook and their first round picks from the end of November to December 15th.
The move was not unexpected in the aftermath of the Lakers winning three of the last four games with Anthony Davis playing the best basketball of his life without LeBron James, who missed the games with an injured groin.
Not only will players who signed as free agents last summer be eligible to be traded on December 15th but that will give the Lakers 11 more games to accurately access what the best moves would be to upgrade the team.
Beginning this Friday against the Spurs, the Lakers will have to figure out how to integrate LeBron James back into the starting lineup and rotation while still allowing Anthony Davis to continue to dominate at MVP level.
It may have taken longer to happen than planned but Friday’s game should hopefully be the game that officially starts the transition of the Los Angeles Lakers from being LeBron James’ team to becoming Anthony Davis’ team.
Here are four smart moves Darvin Ham can do to ease the Lakers’ transition from James to Davis while still taking advantage of LeBron as a superstar without taking away touches or opportunities from AD:
1. Reduce LeBron’s Minutes To Preserve Him for Playoffs
If the Lakers want to preserve and extend LeBron’s career in purple and gold, they need to start load managing his minutes and back-to-backs. This season, LeBron’s averaging 35.7 mpg vs. a career average of 38.2 mpg.
The Lakers should consider limiting LeBron to 32 minutes per game during the regular season. They should also hold him out of back-to-back games to give him time to shake off nagging injuries and be fresh for the playoffs.
Having James play 3 to 4 minutes less per game would result in a reduction in minutes over the rest of the season equal to taking of 5 games. That would also represent additional minutes for Anthony Davis to dominate.
With Anthony Davis suddenly playing at an MVP level, the time has come for the Lakers to give him the torch as the team’s top player and to start managing the load soon-to-be 38-year old LeBron James had to bear.
2. Have LeBron Focus on Facilitating Rather Than Scoring
While they spent three offseasons searching for point guards to take the main playmaking load off LeBron’s shoulders, the Lakers smartest move right now could be for James to focus on facilitating rather than scoring.
Russ has been excellent at getting the ball to AD, especially off pick-and-rolls. To take full advantage of MVP AD, LeBron needs to the same when he’s in the game. Takes advantage of Ham staggering Russ and LeBron.
During the 4-game stretch where AD dominated, the Lakers did a great job of getting the ball to him on isolations on the left side or via pick-and-rolls with Russell Westbrook, Lonnie Walker, or other Lakers guards.
For the rest of this season, I’d like to see LeBron running a heavy diet of pick-and-rolls that get him and AD both going downhill to the basket. On offense, we need LeBron to focus on facilitating rather than scoring.
3. Stagger LeBron and AD Minutes So One’s Always On Court
Other than to start or close halves, Darvin Ham should stagger LeBron James’ and Anthony Davis’ minutes to ensure that one of the team’s two superstar was on the court all of the time during the regular season.
Aside from always having a go-to superstar on the court, staggering their minutes gives both James and Davis opportunities to go one-on-one or choreograph a scoring opportunity with one the team’s other players.
Another benefit to staggering James’ and Davis’ minutes is it will increase the time Anthony Davis does not have to share the court with LeBron James and allow him to continue to dominate when James is on the bench.
Besides giving both superstars opportunities where they’re the focus of the offense, staggering James and Davis also allows the Lakers to have one of their two superstars on the court for almost all of the minutes of the game.
4. 4. Ignore LeBron Chasing Kareem‘s Career Scoring Record
Despite his public support for Anthony Davis taking the torch from him, Anthony Davis understands it’s not easy to become the main man and face of the Lakers while LeBron James is still playing like a top-10 NBA player.
Kareem’ scored 38,387 regular season career points, a record many thought would never be broken. LeBron has 37,311 points, short by 1,076 points. James would need to average 16.3 points in last 66 games. to break record.
That means LeBron’s pursuit of Kareem’s career points scored record should not prevent him from focusing more on facilitating than scoring for the rest of this season. Like to see LeBron James averaging 20/10/10.
While LeBron has always wanted Anthony to take the torch from him, it’s still going to be up to AD in the end to go out and continue to play the dominating MVP caliber basketball that we saw in the last 4 games.
LeBron James cannot give the baton to AD. Anthony has to take it.