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 2nd installment. Your feedback is appreciated, so leave a comment below with your own thoughts. Now, on to the post…
It’s been 11 games since our last Lakers Stock Report, so we’re a few games overdue. During that stretch the Lakers have gone 4-7, so you can only imagine what direction most of the players are trending in. That said, let’s get a few things out of the way first. Anthony Davis has missed too many games during this stretch to be included. Dennis Schröder will be included, however. With those pleasantries out of the way, let’s get to it.
LeBron James ($KING): Trending Neutral. I’m not going to belabor the point here. LeBron is great and played well over this stretch of games. He sat out the final game before the All-Star break (which the team lost) and had a couple of inspiring games mixed into this stretch. That said, with Dennis missing so much time and AD out, Bron’s lift on both sides of the ball was immense and he (rightfully) picked and chose his spots where he was going to give maximum effort. Most games, this meant him not fully committing defensively and the team on the whole suffered for it. I want to be clear here, I’m not blaming Bron at all for the choices he made. But if we’re talking about the level he played to since our last installment, he’s certainly not trending up right now. In the big picture, LeBron is still near the top of the MVP discussions for the league and he continues to put up great numbers night to night. Over the next couple of weeks I do expect him to begin to ramp up more and that should coincide with better play on both sides of the ball and more wins.
Dennis Schröder ($RÖDR): Trending Up. Dennis missed 4 games during this stretch, but showed his incredible value both with his absence and when he made his return. The Lakers were winless with him out, then immediately rattled off back to back wins vs. the Warriors and Blazers with him back in the lineup. With AD out, his scoring and playmaking responsibilities went up and he proved comfortable with the extra burden. In the loss to the Kings, he carried the team offensively with 28 points and 9 assists. In the game right before he had to sit out due to contact tracing, he put up 24 points go along with 3 assists and 4 steals in a win over the Wolves. His defense during this stretch was very good as well. So he’s one of the only players you’ll see in this report trending in the right direction.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($KCP): Trending Down. Second straight bad report for KCP, which doesn’t bode well for him. There was a back to back set of games during this stretch where he looked like he was back on track, scoring 32 combined points while hitting 7 of his 13 shots from deep vs. the Wizards and the Heat. Over the other 9 games, however, he only hit 8 of his 33 attempts from behind the arc and was very up and down defensively. As much as any other player on the roster, KCP needed the week off the All-Star break provided. Mentally he looked tired and for a player who has be locked in at the highest level to play his best, I think the mental drain of this season has impacted him severely. The hope is that he can come back reenergized and with renewed focus after this time off. If he doesn’t, the Lakers are going to have to start to wonder if they need another wing to supplement the production they’re not getting from Kenny.
Wes Matthews ($ARCHR): Trending Down. I really like Wes and it pains me to put it so bluntly in his first appearance on the Stock Report, but it is what it is. Wes is playing poorly. Really poorly. AD’s injury, Dennis being out, and THT’s leveling off thrust him back into the lineup and he’s just not hitting enough shots to be a useful offensive player right now. During this stretch of 11 games he’s made just 4 of his 22 attempts from behind the arc, many of them on open looks. And while he’s competing hard defensively, he’s not being a major difference maker on that side of the ball — or at least a difference maker to the level you’d need to justify the minutes he’s playing considering the aforementioned shooting woes. The frustrating part is that none of what we’re seeing from Wes is from a lack of trying. He’s playing as hard as he can, but the results just aren’t there for him. Considering he was signed as a free agent to replace Danny Green, it’s been hard to see him consistently not hit the mark offensively in this way. For all the grief Danny caught last season, he was a fine regular season player who really was an excellent help defender and a good on his own man, too. It wasn’t until the playoffs that Green’s extended shooting woes really seemed problematic. But we’re there right now with Wes during the regular season and it’s not a reach to say the Lakers are missing the spacing and general gravity Green provided because Wes has not been able to replicate that. I wrote about KCP’s struggles and when you combine those with Wes’, this is why the Lakers may really be looking for a shooter on the buyout or trade market. Wes needs to turn it around or he may end up being pushed out of the rotation again.
Montrezl Harrell ($TREZ): Trending Down. Trez is a really good basketball player. He plays hard, is more skilled than given credit for, and his feel for scoring can, at times, be underrated. He’s had some really productive games during this stretch, too. But, he’s trending down because it’s become very clear to me that despite what Frank Vogel says about Trez on the record, he does not trust him defensively and it’s also pretty clear he sees him more as a situational and matchup based player rather than someone who can play against any opponent in any circumstance. Against the Wizards, Trez was having a wonderful scoring night, but Vogel sat him the entire 4th quarter of a close game because of a perceived matchup problem vs. Robin Lopez. Against the Suns, Trez saw a similar fate when Phoenix went small and played Dario Saric at center. Neither Lopez nor Saric are world beaters or should be considered matchup worries for one of your better players. But there Trez was watching from the sideline as the game hung in the balance. So, despite some really productive games and good performances, Trez is trending down because even with AD (and later, Marc) out he has not found a way to carve out a bigger role in a depleted front court.
Markieff Morris ($TWIN): Much like Wes, Keef found his way back into the rotation when the team started to deal with injuries. And, after a slow-ish reintegration to regular minutes, he’s started to play better of late on both sides of the ball. Keef’s role is not big enough for his numbers to truly pop, but in 4 of his last 5 games he’s scored in double figures and has shot 37% from deep over that stretch. He’s also been good on the glass and has mostly done his job defensively — the game vs. the Suns was not a great showing on that end, however. Again, Keef isn’t someone who you expect to light the world on fire as a scorer, but he’s shooting the ball with confidence and is finding moments in games to leverage some other aspects of his scoring arsenal to help on the scoreboard. I’ve mostly liked what I’ve seen from him of late and he’s making his case to remain in the rotation even after AD returns.
Kyle Kuzma ($KUZ): Trending Up. Kuz has been playing good basketball of late and while my rating for him is probably closer to neutral, I’m giving him the nod here simply for continuing to play hard and for being helpful in more ways than just scoring. During this stretch, Kuz missed a game due to a heel contusion, so he’s played in 10 contests. In those games he’s scored in single digits 3 times and had 19 or more points 4 times — so about even. But, in those 10 games he’s had 7 or rebounds seven times and has played good defense both vs. his own man and in help situations. His energy has also been high every night and I thought the one game he missed (vs. the Suns), his absence was really felt on both ends of the floor. So, overall, I’m really happy with Kuz right now and hope he can keep this level of play up over the 2nd half of the season.
That’s it for this edition, folks. Caruso and THT have both been fine, but have not been noteworthy enough in either direction for me to comment on them more. We’ll be back in another 5-8 games or so.