How the Lakers Can Escape the Early Season Chaos and Win Championship!
After finally getting everybody back from Health and Safety protocols, here’s how the Los Angeles Lakers can escape the early season chaos caused by injuries and Covid-19 and regroup to win their 18th NBA championship.
Having now played 38 games or 46% of the season, the Lakers currently have a 19–19 record with at least another critical 13 games remaining through the end of January before superstar Anthony Davis is likely to return from injury. The 7th place Lakers need to band together and win as many of the games while AD is out as possible. Right now, the Lakers are only a game out of 5th place, which should be their goal over the next 13 games left in January.
Besides waiting for AD, the Lakers are also waiting for January 15th, which is when Horton-Tucker and his $9.5 million contract can be traded. THT plus Nunn and his $5 million contract are the Lakers’ primary trading chips. Assuming AD returns at the end of January and the Lakers make whatever trades they’re going to make, the team will then have 31 games remaining to finalize their lineups and rotations and peak in time for the playoffs.
The challenge facing the Lakers to win the championship can be broken into three steps: win while Anthony Davis is out of the lineup, make a big trade for a key new starter, and peak once Anthony Davis returns from injury.
1. Win While Anthony Davis is Out of the Lineup
With everybody back from Health and Safety protocols, the Lakers hope to turn their modest 2-game winning streak into a 7-game winning streak and to finish January 2022 strong by winning 10 of their 13 remaining games.
Finishing 10–3 without AD would give the Lakers a 29–22 record at the start of February and a good opportunity to take over possession of 5th place in the Western Conference standings, passing injured Clippers and Nuggets. The first five games the Lakers play should all be winnable but five of the remaining eight games will be against teams with winning records. Here’s the remaining 13 games on the Lakers schedule for the month of January:
Winning 10 of the 13 games left in January will depend on how well the Lakers are able play without Anthony Davis and with LeBron James playing the five and whether they can hold their own on the glass and in the paint. The Lakers’ schedule the next five games gives them an opportunity to log some easy wins and start to create some separation from the teams destined to compete for a spot in the play-in tournament when the playoffs begin.
With a full roster finally available, the Lakers have no more room for excuses or losses. Step 1 to escape the early season chaos and win a championship is for the Los Angeles Lakers to win 75% or 10 of the 13 games left in January.
2. Make a Big Trade for Key New Starter
While the Lakers committed to small ball with AD and LeBron as their starting and backup centers, poor roster construction and untimely injuries have left their small ball lineups greatly lacking both in size and defense.
The Lakers have considered two different solutions to acquire the size and defense they need. The first option is to trade for a modern center like Myles Turner or Christian Wood who can both protect the rim and shoot the three. Trading for Turner or Wood would enable Frank Vogel to play his preferred two big lineups, Anthony Davis to play his preferred power forward position, and the Lakers to have the versatility to play either big or small.
The other option the Lakers are considering is trading for an elite power forward like Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, or Cam Reddish to give their small ball lineups with LeBron and AD more size, defense, and shooting. Like with Turner or Wood, Grant, Barnes, and Reddish will be in demand by other teams so the Lakers will need to aggressively look for a trading partner who values the young trading chips they have in Horton-Tucker and Nunn.
Other than trading Westbrook, which the Lakers are willing to do to acquire Ben Simmons, the Lakers would be lucky to be able to trade for Myles Turner, Christian Wood, Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, or Cam Reddish.
3. Peak Once Anthony Davis Returns from Injury
Assuming the Lakers make a big trade for more size and defense and get a motivated, healthy, and rested Anthony Davis back around February 1st, Los Angeles will have 31 games remaining to get into rhythm and peak as a team.
While the Lakers are unlikely to win enough games to get one of the top three seeds, they should be able to position themselves as one of the top four seeds in the West, setting themselves up for reasonable path to the title. Winning 22 of their remaining 31 games of the season would leave the Lakers with a 51–31 record for the 2021–22 regular season, which should be good enough for at least 4th seed in the west behind the Warriors, Suns, and Jazz.
The Lakers road to the NBA championship this year projects to be more of the same crazy roller coaster ride that injuries and Covid have transformed the 2021–22 season into. It will be our third straight Covid colored season. The Lakers were lucky to get an opportunity to win the championship in the bubble in Covid’s first tumultuous season. They will have to be just as lucky to come out of nowhere to win another championship in Covid’s third season.
Essentially, the Los Angeles Lakers must win 75% or three out of every four games over the 44 games remaining in this regular season in order to escape the early chaos and rally to win their 18th NBA championship this season.
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