Wednesday's game between the Lakers and the Pelicans – their second in the line since the commercial request of Anthony Davis – announced that the center All Star of New Orleans and the main parts of the offer announced by Los Angeles would be in the spotlight. One of the most fascinating things he seems to enlighten? Even after all that has changed for the Lakers since the arrival of LeBron James, the continued progression of their young players remains the most important key to unlocking their future.
In the absence of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard last summer, the Lakers no longer have a second superstar to team up with James. It also demonstrated the importance of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart – the latest Lakers milking awards after half a decade of lottery travel – with respect to their chances of returning to Canada. series this season and second difference maker, whether through internal growth or through an external agreement.
Returns have been somewhat mixed on this point. Hart presents himself as an ideal actor for LeBron: a sturdy big guard able to defend several positions, shoot down 3 points, move without the ball, and usually bringing a lot to the table without having to dominate the ball. (Perhaps that's why the Lakers' announced Davis bid included all of their best young songs except for Hart.) Despite solid global numbers, the most effective Big Minutes pairing Lakers was by far James and Hart. The Villanova product is one of the worst players on the rotating squad for more than two months, while persistent knee problems have devastated his shot and his defensive efficiency.
Kuzma remains the most consistent threat to non-LeBron, averaging 19.1 points on 46.9% of his shots as a power-striker and attacker, though this one does not offer as much production in other areas of the game – secondary game replay, defensive versatility – as you wish from a player complementary to a LeBron team. Ball seemed to have been custom-designed to meet this need for a Swiss Army knife despite its persistent firing struggles; the Lakers outclassed their opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions in 821 minutes LeBronzo before Ball suffered a sprained ankle and a bruise at the bone. To some extent, however, the impact of 2017 no. 2 overall choice was further underscored by his absence: The Lakers have allowed 3.5 more points per 100 with Lonzo off the field this season and are the fourth most permissive defense of the NBA since he left the training. It would be a bit exaggerated to say that only Lonzo wears city clothes, but let's just say that Rajon Rondo's work on defense did not really help.
Ingram remains the pivot of all future players of the Lakers. The second pick in the 2016 draft was cited by many as the young Laker most likely to leap forward this season, after showing flashes of fast-paced playmaker, scorer and multi-player defender during his second season. He was quickly under-exploited, often seeming uncomfortable next to James, another big jumper with an inconsistent rider who flourishes with the ball in his hands. The 21-year-old had more opportunities to dominate possession of the ball when James (and later Ball) missed an extended time due to injury, but he remained a bit like a full-fledged producer, more inclined to quickly chain a few successive buckets. by long periods of relative silence than making a constant noise throughout the match.
However, this has begun to change recently. Ingram has probably played the best ball of his career in the past month, averaging 22.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 36 minutes per game. The Lakers have stammered since the All-Star break, but Ingram has shone, recording 88 points in 53 field goal attempts over the past three games.
Ingram has been a bit more aggressive in her hunt lately, averaging 14.9 attempts and 6.5 free-throw attempts per night in her last 11 outings (vs. 13.4 and 5.2). respectively, of the 38 previous ones). This commitment to attack led to an increase in the efficiency of the points scored – a real shot percentage of 630 last month, up from a mark of 549 in high season – largely thanks to a Considerable leap forward of rim attempts. Prior to January 27, Ingram had made 59.7% of his shots inside the restricted area, placing him 50th out of 62 with an average of at least three such throws. per game this season. In the last 11 games, however, he converted 70.1% of his close runs, putting him in 15th place … just behind James (70.3%).
The third-year swingman seemed more confident in his ability to avoid contact, penetrating the body of the blockers before using his 7-foot-3-inch go-go-gadget wings to move the ball out of danger so that it can always release a high percentage look. Although his three-point shot remains inconsistent – he has made six of his last seven in-depth attempts, but he had missed 11 of his previous 12 – Ingram has used with confidence the threat of his ability to drive and his length to create space in the medium. , where it ranks in the 72nd percentile in terms of effectiveness of other wings this season, according to Glass cleaning.
He also discriminated by turning the ground in transition and cutting the ball, using James' attention to find pockets in the defense for assists that he can turn into easy pails. Although Ingram's individual production continued to increase when James was not on the field, the early-season trend had seen the LA point differential improve overall after the split of the two. is reversed. The Lakers outclassed their opponents by 2.5 points for 100 possessions when they split the field last month, and their doors were knocked down by more than nine points per 100 each time one plays without the other. . Ingram's greatest asset to reach his full potential may still be to be shipped elsewhere in order to manage his own team, but this recent series of forms leaves at least hope that he will be able to play in a complementary role alongside LeBron if the Lakers continue to mount empty in their search for a companion of greater power.
This ongoing research continues to be the storm cloud hovering over the Lakers and their struggles. The attempt to trap Davis mid-season has undermined these professions of patience in the pre-season. Having exceeded the trade deadline without being moved did not necessarily mean that everything would return to the usual situation for the Lakers other than LeBron, as predicted Rondobecause being out of ad in February does not mean that the hunt will stop.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will keep trying to fight for the barriers, because knowing what they're dealing with – former Cavalry General Manager David Griffin – recently tells Michael Shapiro to Sports Illustrated"LeBron's presence means you have to win championships." That requires stars and if the Lakers can not sign another one – something that does not seem so far-fetched these days – Children continue to represent the Lakers "best shot at one, one way or another.
After 60 games with LeBron, they still audition for their roles. Their performance in stretching could determine where they end up playing, and how big they will be.