From now through the rest of the regular season (and maybe longer!), I’m going to do a Lakers Stock Report for 5-9 guys on the team every handful of games (or so). I’m hoping to use this as a snapshot of which direction players are trending and, with that, give us a better look at the team as a whole in how they’re performing as the season progresses. This is the first installment. Your feedback is appreciated, so leave a comment below with your own thoughts. Now, on to the post…
LeBron James ($KING): Trending Up. What can really be said about LeBron at this point? We can debate if he’s still the best player in the league or the frontrunner for the MVP award — which seems ridiculous considering he’s in year 18 — but what can’t be debated is he’s been head and shoulders above any other player on this team and is the catalyst for how they’re winning games. In the Lakers last 5 games (all wins) he’s averaging 26.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 9.8 assists on 50.5% shooting from the field. He’s not missed a game this season and in the team’s last three games he’s played an additional 20 minutes just from overtime periods. His 3 point shooting has fallen off some in this stretch (mostly because of a 2-10 night in the first OKC game coming off the double-OT win vs. the Pistons), but he’s also tallied more combined steals and blocks (14) than personal fouls (9) during this period too. Has his effort waxed and waned some? Yes. But when it’s time to win the game, there he is, making the key plays.
Anthony Davis ($BROW): Trending Neutral. AD has missed the team’s last two games with tendinosis in his achilles, but the team is saying it’s not serious and if these games were more important I’d imagine he’d be in the lineup. In the last game he played, he had 30 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal on 13-22 shooting in the win over the Pistons. In the game before that, he only had 13 points (5-8 shooting) but had 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks against in the win over Denver. His defense has been better than advertised on most nights and is passing and individual shot creation have been quite good even though his overall usage is down. If this were any player besides AD, we’d say he’s having a great year, but his status and reputation as one of the league’s best handful of guys means he’s graded on a different curve. I’d probably have his stock trending up if he’d not missed games with this injury.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($KCP): Trending Down. KCP has hit a rough patch this season after starting the year on fire. Over his last 5 games he’s averaging only 7.4 points and has only hit 4 of his last 14 attempts from deep. Extend the benchmark to 10 games and it’s not much better: 6.1 points per game and 7 of his last 30 from behind the arc. KCP has been a streaky player over the course of his career, so this extended dip in production and shooting accuracy could very well be simple regression to the mean. He is still playing hard defensively, even though the smaller backcourt means he’s defending bigger players more often. Overall, he’s having a fine year, but this stretch has not been kind to him.
Dennis Schröder ($RÖDR): Trending Up. Dennis’ last 5 games has seen his scoring pick back up (19.4 points per game) while seeing his assists kick up (5 per game) from what they were in January. His on ball defense remains strong and his general feel for how to operate within the Lakers systems while playing next to LeBron and AD is improving. He’s had some off ball issues defensively and his shot/pass decisions can, at times, still frustrate. But, in the big picture, he’s playing pretty damn well and his overall competitiveness has been key on nights where the Lakers energy hasn’t been as high.
Marc Gasol ($BGSPN): Trending Neutral. There’s not a lot to say about Marc this year and I think that’s probably going to remain true for pretty much any 5-10 game rolling sample. His averages for the last 5 games are almost identical to his season numbers and besides a more assertive shooting night here or there, you’re not going to find much fluctuation in what he provides. His passing is a wonderful addition to the team and his positional defense remains top notch. But athletes of all sizes will cause him various issues either due to foot speed, ability to elevate, or both. You can nitpick parts of his game, but I think that’s missing the bigger picture with him. He’s solid and for a minimum salaried player in the role he’s being used, I’m perfectly good with that.
Montrezl Harrell ($TREZ): Trending Up. From a stats perspective, there’s probably not a stronger 5 game stretch statistically from Trez than this last stretch. He’s shooting 75% from the field in February while scoring 16 points and grabbing nearly 6 rebounds a game. He came up big as a scorer in the two OKC games that AD missed and was a fixture of the team’s closing lineups as the lone big on the floor in both those wins. His defense has been better of late too, particularly because the Lakers have been asking him to play in drop coverage less and instead have been utilizing his ranginess more by playing him up in the P&R and switching more outright. Just a really good stretch from Trez and it’s been nice to see him fill in for AD the way he has — particularly with his scoring.
Kyle Kuzma ($KUZ): Trending Neutral. Don’t mistake this rating for me not liking what Kuz has been doing in his minutes. He’s been active defensively and on the backboards, with two 2-block games in his last 5 contests and 19 total rebounds in the last two games that AD sat. However, during that same stretch he’s hit only 8 of his 25 attempts from distance and has only taken 5 total FT’s (making only 2 of them). So, I’ve liked his energy and general approach to the game, but his production and consistency as a shooter has not been to the level it was in January. He’s doing just fine, though. So no Kuz hate from me.
Talen Horton-Tucker ($THT): Trending Neutral. Like Kuz, don’t mistake this for me being at all down on young THT. Every game he shows you a flash of his enormous potential with either a drive and finish, a great pass, or a highlight defensive play. That said, the ups and downs of being a just turned 20 year old getting his first real NBA minutes is real and THT is not exempt from that. Over the last few games the off-ball defensive miscues have been higher than I’d like and his outside shooting has let him down a bit (1-8 over the last 5 games). I do like that Vogel is consistently finding around 20 minutes a game for him, though, which is exactly what he needs to continue to develop and, hopefully, be playoff ready when his number is called.
Alex Caruso ($GOAT): Trending Neutral. AC has missed two straight games with a hand injury and it remains to be seen if he’ll play either Friday or Sunday. Before going out with injury, he’d been playing fine, though it bears mentioning that of the 3 times (in 19 appearances this year) that he’s had a negative plus/minus 2 of them came in the games before he sat out hurt. So, why is he trending neutral and not down? Well, first, AC is almost always a positive contributor and in the two games previous to those (Hawks and Celtics), his plus/minus numbers of +13 and +14 were best on the team. Second, even though he’s not a boxscore guy, his FG% has been good this month in the games he has played. Third, when you watch the games, he always seems to make an important play or two on both sides of the ball that contribute to winning. And, most important, they’re my rankings and what I say goes.
NOTE: I am not including Keef nor Wes in this edition of the stock report since they’ve only played in two games after sitting the previous four due to Vogel reducing the rotation. If they end up sticking in the rotation or getting more run in general, I’ll add them next time.