The LA Lakers have been very disappointing this season. As of Jan. 25, they are 22-26, which is the third-worst record in the Western Conference. The team is struggling, but there is still hope.
Some fans believe that the entire season has come down to LeBron James chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record and that the Lakers don't care about winning. However, this is far from the truth.
While LeBron's historic achievement is very important, the LA Lakers are not exactly a lost cause. With Anthony Davis' return just around the corner, we can expect the team to turn the season around and make a playoff push.
There is still hope for LA Lakers
This may sound like a cliché, but the LA Lakers truly are their worst enemies. On paper, the team looks incredibly dangerous and has some of the best basketball players in the world. However, the reality is much different.
Players on the Lakers roster have missed more than 150 games cumulatively this season, with LeBron James missing 10 of them and Anthony Davis being sidelined for 23 games.
Davis has missed 20 straight games and hasn't seen action since mid-December 2022. Fortunately, the star forward is nearing his return and will most likely return by the All-Star break.
You may be interested in reading: Anthony Davis injury update: Anthony Davis expected to return for LA Lakers before All-Star break
The LA Lakers have played 48 games in the 2022-23 season, yet they've had Davis and LeBron together in only 19 of them. This includes two games Davis left midway due to injury problems.
The two stars haven't had enough time to gel, but once Anthony Davis comes back, that will change. Davis' injuries have been a big problem for the Lakers, but there is no doubt that he is one of the best big men in the league when he's healthy.
The 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 27.4 points and a career-high 12.1 rebounds per game this season. He's also converted a career-best 59.4% of field-goal attempts and his defense has been great.
Lakers' record is bad, but other teams are within their reach
Expecting the Lakers to grab the top spot in the Western Conference is very unrealistic, but they could finish the regular season with one of the top four spots.
Yes, they have the third-worst record in the West, but are also very close to sixth spot. The Lakers are 7.5 games ahead of the Spurs, who have the second-worst record in the conference. However, they are also only 2.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks, who are in sixth place.
Considering that the Spurs are so far behind and the fact that they are tanking, it is unlikely that the Lakers will go any lower in the standings. However, they could certainly get into the playoff picture very soon.
The team is only a game and a half behind the final play-in spot, which is currently occupied by the Golden State Warriors. In fact, even the LA Clippers, who are currently in fifth spot in the West, are only two games above .500.
The Lakers had a five-game win streak three weeks ago. After that, three of their losses came by 10 points combined. If they can put together another win streak, they could move up the standings and even avoid going through the play-in.
The acquisition of Rui Hachimura
The LA Lakers recently traded for Rui Hachimura, who will most likely be available for their next game against the San Antonio Spurs. Hachimura is not a star player yet, but he has a lot of potential.
The best part of the trade is that the Lakers only lost Kendrick Nunn and a couple of second-round picks to acquire the 6-8 forward. While Rui alone won't be enough to make the Lakers competitive, his addition should improve the team.
The power forward has appeared in 30 games this season, averaging 13.0 points per game on 48.8% shooting. Considering that he has a lot of potential, it will be interesting to see how he plays in the City of Angels.
LeBron James is exceptional at playmaking and makes his teammates better, which is why Rui's numbers could further improve. Additionally, Hachimura played alongside Russell Westbrook in Washington and the two are very close.
Trade deadline and the mid-season turnaround
The 2023 NBA trade deadline is on Feb. 9 and the LA Lakers will most likely make a few more moves before it. The team has a lot of flaws, but none that couldn't be fixed with another trade or two.
Even with the current roster, the Lakers could make a strong playoff push. However, if they add a decent 3-point shooter by the trade deadline, they could even become contenders.
Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss were reluctant to trade draft picks. While they may still not be willing to part ways with their first-round picks, the Lakers still have a few more second-round picks they could trade.
From Myles Turner to Jakob Poeltl, there are many great players who will most likely be available for a trade. If the Lakers can put together another decent trade package, their chances of having a deeper playoff run will drastically increase.
Lakers could have a deep playoff run
Making the playoffs is imperative for the LA Lakers at this point. They will have to put together another big win streak if they want to move up the standings and even completely avoid the play-in.
The truth, however, is that the Lakers could have a deep playoff run. They have beaten most of their Western Conference foes this season and have a 2-2 record against the Denver Nuggets, the best team in the conference.
While the Lakers may not have a great record, they do have an experienced roster that knows what it takes to win it all. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both on the 2020 championship roster, while Russell Westbrook played in the 2012 NBA Finals.
You may be interested in reading: NBA analyst confident about LA Lakers’ playoff hopes if Anthony Davis returns by February
Make no mistake, however. Beating the Nuggets and any other top team in the West will be extremely tough. But if the Lakers can get healthy and make it to the playoffs, they will have a good chance of winning at least one series in it.
LA Lakers and LeBron James want to win
LeBron James is not happy with losing. He has won four championship rings in his impressive NBA career and would like to win at least one more before he retires. King James wants to win and will do all it takes to do so.
Tanking makes no sense since the Lakers traded their first-round picks with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade. Due to this, there is zero incentive for tanking.
Father Time has lost every single battle against LeBron James so far, but he will have to retire at some point. The four-time MVP has a few more years left in his tank, and as long as he's on the team, he will keep trying to win.
As long as the Lakers refuse to lose games on purpose, they will have a chance to surprise their fans with a deep playoff run. While winning games is easier said than done, there is no doubt that James will give every ounce of his power to be victorious.
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