Lakers power rankings: Ranking the most impactful players through 20 games
The Los Angeles Lakers are 10-10 through the first 20 games of the 2021-22 NBA season.
Though that is far from optimal for a team that entered the campaign with championship aspirations, the team has rarely played with everyone available.
LeBron James has been in and out with injuries and, most recently, a one-game suspension. Anthony Davis missed his first game of the season because of a fever. Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn, two players expected to be key in the rotation, have yet to play this season. Austin Reaves broke into the rotation but had an injury.
It’s been far from pretty for the Lakers, but there are still plenty of games left. As the season hits the quarter mark, here’s how the Lakers rank among each other:
13. Kent Bazemore
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Kent Bazemore had strong expectations entering the season because he was one of the few two-way players L.A. signed in free agency.
However, after being a staple in the starting lineup, Bazemore is no longer in the rotation and hasn’t logged a minute in the last three games.
Bazemore’s offensive production fell off a cliff this year. He is averaging 4.6 points while shooting 28.6% from deep, far below his 40% clip last season with the Golden State Warriors. Missing layups and airballing 3s has summed up his season so far, and his defense simply hasn’t been good enough to justify playing.
12. Rajon Rondo
(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Rajon Rondo, similar to Bazemore, has not been good enough on either end of the floor so far. The only positive for Rondo has been his chemistry with Anthony Davis in the two-man game.
Other than that, Rondo is largely passive on offense. He’s shooting 30% overall and 29.2% from deep. He can still facilitate the offense but only in spurts.
He comes in higher than Bazemore because of that factor, though both players can still turn it around.
11. DeAndre Jordan
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
If the Lakers didn’t have injury issues, DeAndre Jordan probably would not see the floor. But because of injuries to LeBron, Davis and Ariza and the scarcity of bigs on the roster, Jordan has to get minutes.
However, he’s a shell of himself. He’s serviceable but only in bursts. Jordan grabs rebounds at a high clip (16.7 per-36 minutes) but can only finish on lobs on offense.
Defensively, drop coverage is his go-to because he’s not laterally quick enough to do much else. He doesn’t contest shots as much as he should, and ball-watching has also been a problem.
10. Wayne Ellington
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Wayne Ellington has either had some really clutch games — like against the Indiana Pacers — or really poor ones. It’s mostly been the latter for the soon-to-be 34-year-old guard.
Ellington is shooting 36.9% from deep on 5.4 attempts. That’s not bad at all, but he needs to improve his consistency on a nightly basis. Last year, he hit 42.2% from deep on over six attempts.
Maybe more minutes and familiarity with the stars will do him wonders as the season progresses.
9. Avery Bradley
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
If the Lakers had invested in more two-way players during the summer, Avery Bradley, who was signed to a non-guaranteed deal right before the regular season started, wouldn’t be a regular starter.
Bradley has been pretty underwhelming at shooting guard, but that’s been the theme for the entire roster so far. He’s shooting 39.8% from the field and 37.9% from deep.
Perimeter containment on defense has also been an issue, but again, the Lakers as a whole have been detrimental on that end of the court.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Dwight Howard plays set rotational minutes at the start of the second quarter and some in the third, but he’s usually solid during that time.
His hands aren’t the best, which shows when he can’t catch passes firmly or can’t finish near the rim like he used to, but he’s still averaging 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 13.4 minutes that are usually more beneficial than Jordan’s time at the 5.
Howard is also hitting 71.4% of his 3s. It’s on low volume of course, but those shots have switched from garbage-time attempts to real-time ones. Howard’s buckets against the Detroit Pistons were massive, and it could be worth tapping into with experimental lineups.
7. Talen Horton-Tucker
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Talen Horton-Tucker has been an enigma through seven games. He was the best Laker during his first three games back but has looked unrecognizable in the previous four.
He also has the smallest sample size of the bunch, but when he had rhythm, he demonstrated the potential impact he can have on the Lakers when fully healthy.
Adjusting to playing with LeBron, Westbrook and Davis will be key for his success down the road.
6. Austin Reaves
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Nobody would’ve thought Reaves would be this impactful as an undrafted rookie, but that’s the reality of the situation the Lakers are in.
Injuries paved the way for Reaves to get more minutes, and he seized advantage of his opportunity.
Reaves just sticks to his role and excels in it. He doesn’t force the issue, which is why he’s been a seamless fit alongside the Big 3. He’s been one of those players where the stats don’t tell the full story, so the Lakers have to utilize him more when he returns.
5. Malik Monk
Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Malik Monk’s 3-point percentage (32.6%) isn’t near the 40% clip he boasted last year with the Charlotte Hornets, but he’s been worth the minimum value L.A. paid for him this summer.
He’s had defensive issues, particularly when navigating screens and playing off the ball, but he has showed he can turn it up when it matters, like against the Pacers.
Monk has also been a solid secondary creator alongside the stars. He has crafty moves that gets him to the paint, and he can finish with tough layups and floaters over defenders. He’s been vital so far to this offense off the bench, despite some rough outings.
4. Russell Westbrook
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Russell Westbrook has had his moments in the purple and gold, but it’s been a rollercoaster experience, to say the least.
Taking the charge to beat the San Antonio Spurs, leading a fourth-quarter takeover against the Pistons and dropping 18 points in the third quarter against the New York Knicks all without LeBron is why the Lakers acquired him.
But the fit still needs more time to function, and the shotmaking and decision-making woes will need to be sorted out as well.
Again, he’s played only nine games with LeBron this season, so it’s possible that the best is yet to come for Westbrook.
3. Carmelo Anthony
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Carmelo Anthony is a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Of course, the league is nowhere near close to determining that, but Anthony would be on the list if the season was nearing an end.
Anthony has been electrifying off the bench with 15 points a game while shooting a career-high 43.8% from deep on 6.5 attempts. Every time he shoots, it’s expected to go in. That’s how good he’s been.
For the minimum value, Anthony has been one of the best signings of the summer.
2. Anthony Davis
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
AD comes in at No. 2. He’s posted strong numbers in the absence of James with averages of 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals, but it hasn’t always translated to wins.
Davis also needs to refine his shot selection. He’s been settling for jumpers way too often for someone of his size and talent. An 18.9% clip from deep is unacceptable.
1. LeBron James
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The Lakers are 6-3 with LeBron in the lineup. That flips to 4-7 when he is out. That’s all you need to know about who the best Laker has been this season.
Despite playing only nine games, James is still showing he can be dominant when he wants to flip the switch, as Indiana found out after he poured 39 points in a stellar overtime win.
Los Angeles’ championship hopes falls on the shoulders of LeBron. He just needs to stay on the court as much as possible to give L.A. a shot.
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