Tuesday, October 3

How does the return of LeBron James impact the Lakers’ slow start?

The Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles earlier in the season have been well documented, but help appears to be on the way.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there is “growing optimism” that superstar LeBron James will make his return for the Lakers’ confrontation with the Boston Celtics on Friday, November 19. James is said to be “making good progress” after resuming individual workouts in recent days. to join Los Angeles for their next five-game road trip.

The 36-year-old has been out of the game since Nov. 2 with an abdominal strain, missing the last seven games. A total of nine games have been lost so far, the other two stemming from a sprained ankle suffered in the third game of the season.

MORE: LeBron James Injury Timeline

With the Lakers off to a disappointing 8-7 start, can LeBron’s return get things back on track?

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How does LeBron James return to the Lakers impact?

Let’s start by stating the obvious: The Lakers’ return as one of the greatest players of all time will impact the team in a positive way. Even in year 19, after a couple of nagging injuries, you can expect James to step in and straighten the boat.

Before his abdominal strain, James was averaging a team-high 24.8 points with 7.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

He was still throwing ridiculous dunks, often enough to have a six-game two-minute featured package.

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His way of playing will never fall, he was knocking down a career-high 2.8 triples per game and he was still making big plays happen on the defensive side.

The Lakers are 4-2 in games LeBron has played and 4-5 in games he’s been out.

While their on / off numbers paint the picture of how crucial he is to their success, it especially magnifies how much better they are offensively when James is on the floor.

With James on the floor, the Lakers’ offensive rating of 109.8 would rank them eighth best in the NBA. When James is off the court, the Lakers become a top-five offense in the league with a 101.6 rating.

As it stands for the entire season, Los Angeles’ offensive rating of 104.8 places them 23rd in the league, a far cry from where a title contender would hope to be.

With James back in the lineup, the Lakers will be less reliant on running the offense through Russell Westbrook, who hasn’t had the most ideal start to his Laker stint. Westbrook is averaging a league-leading 5.3 turnovers per game, a number that has only increased since James’ injury.

On the other hand, star forward Anthony Davis is beginning to find a rhythm with more shot attempts, averaging 26.4 points in the last five games. While StatMuse shows that Davis only averages about three more points in games without james in comparison with games with james This season, LeBron will have to take responsibility for keeping the eight-time All-Star involved in offense, even when the trio are back on the court together.

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That will be the biggest hurdle to overcome, as the trio didn’t quite fit in yet before James’ injury. With Westbrook and James once again sharing playmaking tasks and all three players splitting shot attempts, can they solve the problems and become the dynamic force that the Lakers faithful hoped they would be before the start of the season? ?

The answer to that question will be the difference between a championship team or a team that recovers from the playoffs well below its goals.

What will happen to the Lakers starting lineup when LeBron James returns?

(NBA Getty Images)

Along with James, the other four starters for the Lakers in their last game before his injury were Westbrook, Davis, Kent Bazemore and Avery Bradley.

Since then, Bazemore has been removed from the starting lineup in favor of 20-year-old prospect Talen Horton-Tucker, who has returned to action following preseason thumb surgery, and Carmelo Anthony has played a starting role in the absence. leave me alone. .

Since it’s safe to assume that James, Westbrook and Davis will start, that leaves head coach Frank Vogel with a decision to make about Anthony, Horton-Tucker and Bradley.

I guess Bradley remains in the starting lineup for his perimeter defense, while Anthony completes the frontcourt alongside LeBron and AD. Due to Horton-Tucker’s ability as a playmaker to create offense for others, his talents would be better prepared to lead the second unit with James and Westbrook dominating the ball for the starters.

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Moving THT to the bench gives the Lakers some real depth for the first time this season as the young forward is off to a good start, averaging 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in his first two games.

It will be interesting to see how Vogel really handles the five starters and the team rotation as they seek to stabilize what has been a sporadic start.


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