The Los Angeles Lakers were one of the prohibitive favorites to win the title before the 2019-20 NBA season began. It is also worth mentioning that the Lakers had the second-best record in the league before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But with the season about to resume in Orlando later this month, the Los Angeles Lakers have taken a couple of hits. First, Avery Bradley has opted not to join the team due to family reasons. Now, Rajon Rondo will be out of the rotation as well. He fractured his right thumb and will be out 6-8 weeks.
Does this recent development hinder the Lakers’ title hopes? Well, not exactly. The Lakers are third in scoring defense, allowing 106.9 points per contest. Additionally, the Lakers lead the NBA in blocks, as the team averages 6.8 per contest.
The Lakers are sixth in opponent shooting efficiency at 44.4 percent. And they are also fourth in opponent shooting from beyond the arc, limiting the opposition to a 34.2 percent conversion rate.
Rondo is a player with a high basketball IQ. However, the Lakers’ success on defense can’t be solely attributed to Rondo. This is especially true being that he has one of the worst defensive ratings on the Lakers’ roster.
Another reason why the Lakers’ title hopes are still in good shape is the 1-2 punch of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Yes, James’ scoring production has dipped somewhat compared to the past two seasons (25.7 PPG), but he is the Lakers’ leading facilitator. He is averaging a career-best 10.6 dimes per contest. And his shooting numbers are still efficient in Year 17 as his current slash lines are .498/.349/.697.
Meanwhile, Davis has been a key offseason addition for the Lakers. His 26.7 scoring average is the third-highest output of his career. Davis is also shooting 33.5 percent from 3-point range. And his 3.1 assists per-game average is the second-highest mark of his career.
Davis also leads the Lakers in multiple categories. The list includes scoring, rebounding (9.4 per game), steals (1.5) and blocks (2.4). Simply put Davis is just what the Lakers were missing in the middle last season.
Let’s also not forget that the Lakers have added Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith as an alternative option to Avery Bradley. No, they don’t bring the same defensive intensity to the table, but they are both capable players in their own right.
The Lakers will miss Rondo to an extent. Playoff-tested veterans are hard to find. But in spite of what some sports pundits may think, the Lakers’ title hopes have not significantly dropped off due to his recent injury.