Although the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a major setback earlier this month when DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined with an ACL injury, the team appears to be back on track following their recent acquisition of eight-time All-Star center Dwight Howard. But with Howard now joining a Lakers lineup led by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and incoming third-year forward Kyle Kuzma, what could be the organization’s biggest weakness heading into the 2019-20 NBA season?
In an article published Monday, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey looked at the most “glaring” weaknesses of all 30 NBA teams, noting in his entry for the Lakers that few other teams have “as much talent at the top.” He also predicted good things for the players who make up James and Davis’ supporting cast, including the aforementioned Kuzma, big man JaVale McGee, and wingmen Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. However, it was also noted that some of the Lakers’ other backcourt options might be “downright scary” – and not in a good way at all.
As pointed out by Bailey, the advanced statistics published by Cleaning the Glass show that expected starting point guard Rajon Rondo was detrimental to the Lakers’ cause during his time on the floor last season, as the team’s net rating was 10.9 points per 100 possessions lower when he was on the court. The Bleacher Report writer opined that Rondo’s ball-dominant playing style combined with his poor shooting efficiency could remain a “dangerous” mix for the Lakers heading into the new season.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 26, 2019
In addition to the returning Rondo, the newly acquired Avery Bradley could be another guard who could potentially do more harm than good to the Lakers, if some of his own advanced career statistics are any indicator. According to Bailey, Bradley’s box plus/minus rating has been “below average” in eight of his nine NBA seasons, while his true shooting percentage ranks only 188th out of 212 players in league history who have attempted as many three-point shots as he has.
While Bradley’s fellow Lakers backcourt newcomer, former Golden State Warriors backup Quinn Cook, was described as a weak defensive player at this point in his career, Bleacher Report‘s Bailey posited that his 41.8 percent career three-point shooting percentage makes him a promising prospect as a backup guard.
Despite their perceived lack of backcourt depth, the Los Angeles Lakers are still expected by many to rebound strongly in 2019-20 after the LeBron James era got off to a rocky start last season. Per FiveThirtyEight’s latest projections, which were published days after Cousins’ injury and a week before Howard officially signed with the team, the Lakers are expected to finish the coming regular season with a 47-35 win-loss record – a 10-game improvement over last year’s record – and a 72 percent chance of making the playoffs.