LeBron James and the LA Lakers have run into trouble in the last week after Anthony Davis's injury. Davis will be back in a couple of weeks as he suffered an Achilles strain and the LA Lakers reasonably will not try to rush him back. However, the team has fallen in four of its last five games and Davis's absence is not the only lingering issue for Frank Vogel's team, the reigning NBA champions.
In this report, we will come up with five major questions that LeBron James and his 2020-21 LA Lakers must answer in the upcoming weeks.
5 Major questions the LA Lakers face prior to the 2021 NBA All-Star break
Unfortunately for the LA Lakers, Davis's injury coincided with a rough part of their schedule, and they had to face the Brooklyn Nets and their rivals from the 2020 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat, with a shorthanded roster.
Dennis Schroder, arguably the team's third-best player in the current season, has also missed games since he was placed in the health and safety protol. He is also set to miss the LA Lakers' upcoming match against the team with the best record in the league, the Utah Jazz.
The LA Lakers are now 22-10 in the 2020-21 season after falling to the Washington Wizards. Though they allowed the Wizards to score 127 points, they remain at the top of the league in terms of Defensive Rating.
Even though their defensive leader, AD, is out, the team held the Brooklyn Nets to their fourth-lowest scoring game since they traded for James Harden on January 13th.
Withut further ado, let us take a look at the major questions facing the LA Lakers before the 2021 NBA All-Star break.
#5 How can the LA Lakers fix their rim-protection issues?
Last season, the LA Lakers frontcourt was built with Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, three players with length and a good ability to alter shots. From those three great rim protectors, the LA Lakers now only have Davis, and with him injured, Marc Gasol has to answer in an area in which he never excelled.
Though the Spanish center is 6' 11'', he is not a great rim protector at the moment and LA is suffering a bit from it. The team remains solid defensively and Gasol has one of the best Defensive Rating grades in the league (103), but rim-protection will be needed in the postseason.
#4 Will the LA Lakers' 3P shooters return to form?
The 2020-21 LA Lakers rank 20th in three-point shooting percentage with 35% and that number is not great for a team that will play deep into the NBA Playoffs.
In their last five games, the LA Lakers have made 53 of 173 attempts from the three-point line, which is just a 30% effort from beyond the arc. In their four losses of their last five matches, the Lakers have made only 27% of their three-pointers and that has definitely been an issue for the team.
LeBron James has made five of his last 33 three-point shots, even though his overall numbers have been good in their current three-game losing streak (he averaged 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists per game in that stretch).
#3 Can the LA Lakers' bench be effective in the upcoming weeks?
The 2020-21 LA Lakers' bench rank sixth in terms of point per game with 39 and lead all benches with a 49% field-goal percentage in the season.
However, the bench unit ranks 11th in the last five games in points per game and has a 28.9 shooting percentage from the three-point line in that stretch, which ranks 24th in the entire NBA among benches.
Placing Kyle Kuzma in the starting lineup takes some scoring away from the bench, but a unit with Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, and Talen Horton-Tucker must find ways to be effective for the team in the upcoming games, which will not be easy.
#2 Will finishing outside the Top 4 in the West hurt the LA Lakers' chances at back-to-back titles?
When we look at the LA Lakers' schedule for the upcoming days, it looks quite tough for LeBron James and company and good results might continue to evade them if the team cannot put together good efforts on both ends of the court.
The LA Lakers will visit the first-seeded Utah Jazz on February 24th, and will host the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns between February 26th and March 2nd.
If they cannot find their rhythm and remain in the West's top four, it might jeopardize their chances in the NBA Playoffs. Of course, failing to win the upcoming games will not end their chances at a Top-4 finish in the West, but it might be a dangerous zone to tap into.
#1 Should LeBron James load manage while Anthony Davis is out?
The bottom line for the LA Lakers as currently constructed is the team's overall health, and not precisely for the regular season, but the NBA Playoffs. It all starts with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
While Davis had presumably been playing through pain in the 2020-21 NBA season until he was sidelined, LeBron James might consider taking some games off to maintain a fresh body after the 72-game regular season is over.
Even though The King's minutes were just over 33 per game through December and January, the 36-year-old is now averaging 38 minutes per game in February. In a season in which we were expecting him to sit out more than a couple of games, LeBron James has played in each of the LA Lakers' 32 matches so far.