Welcome to Lakers Lair Three-Man Weave, a subjective Lakers-related column where our resident Laker fans answer a series of questions regarding the Purple & Gold. The Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season and Lonzo Ball seems to have a renewed confidence. For this edition, the gang gathers to discuss what they’ve seen from Los Angeles recently. Our participants are:
1. What has been most important for the Lakers in this strong stretch of basketball they’re playing?
Cortes: It’s difficult to single one thing out as the catalyst for this strong stretch of games for the Lakers. However, if I had to pick one, it would be the combination of Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram.
Both Ingram and Randle have been straight up amazing for the Lakers with their two-way play and ability to make plays for themselves and teammates. Lonzo Ball has also been great since his return from a knee injury so like I said, it’s really difficult to single one reason out for the Lakers’ strong performance.
King: The weak strength of schedule helps, but I would say that the offense is FINALLY playing consistent basketball. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have put up an average of 121.4 PPG, and are looking as strong as they have looked all season. While losing Josh Hart to a broken hand for an extended amount of time, the rest of the backcourt has picked it up.
There is still a long way to go on the defensive side of the ball (giving up +105 PPG) but that was to be expected when Hart went down and Isaiah Thomas took over more of his duties. In case one didn’t know Thomas isn’t necessarily the best defender. On offense hower, I like what I am seeing as a fan. With Thomas seeming to look more and more comfortable in the Lakers offense, Lonzo Ball finding his shot, and Julius Randle playing bully ball night in and night, every player seems to be playing with a little bit more of an edge to their game.
Allen: I would contribute it to effort and confidence. I believe over this stretch we’ve seen great effort and after the first couple of games, you could see the confidence building. When it comes to a young team, it takes time to put things together. But when you see it starting to unfold and the confidence begins to rise, you begin to see what type of potential they have. We’re seeing that now from the Los Angeles Lakers.
2. Lonzo Ball is shooting 46% from downtown since Dec. 22. Outlier or about what we should expect from him going forward?
Cortes: We all knew Lonzo Ball could shoot the three-pointer ever since his Chino Hills and UCLA days, but the rational question was when it was gonna translate to the NBA. With that historically bad start behind him now, Ball’s confidence is higher than ever in the league and we should expect him to keep posting good percentages from three.
King: Definitely something we can expect for years to come. Lonzo Ball is a player that doesn’t get rattled or let his poor play follow him into the next game regardless of how many shots he has missed. His shot was what helped him get drafted and the Lakers had no issues with it in the draft process either. He may not be on the same shooting level as a Stephen Curry, Devin Booker, or Kevin Durant but defenders in the NBA still must respect his shot.
I am with Ralph on this, if people were worried about his shot at the D-1 level, he put that to rest by hitting on 41% of his three-point attempts at UCLA. Although he may not have hit the ground running at the beginning of the season with his percentage from deep, he proved that although unorthodox, it works. He also was the first Laker player to record six three-pointers and get 11 assists. Keep shooting Lonzo.
Allen: I do not believe this is an outlier. I do believe that Ball is a solid shooter however, 46% is a bit extreme. I think he’s going to fall to reality just a bit. Between 38% and 42% is where I visualize Ball as a shooter and I see him falling somewhere between there going forward. With that being said, it’s great to see his confidence up and his shot falling after the terrible start to his rookie year.
3. The small sample size theater loves the Lonzo Ball/Isaiah Thomas pairing. What are your initial thoughts on how the duo has played?
Cortes: This is the type of backcourt I have always envisioned for Lonzo Ball. Two guards that can shoot the ball and make plays for others. Ball and Isaiah Thomas’ game are complementary and it has shown in the time they have spent together on the floor. Ball’s main attribute is playmaking while his secondary skill is his three-point shot and vice-versa for Thomas. Interchangeability is a proven commodity in the NBA and the pairing of IT and Zo is just what the Lakers need.
King: My initial thoughts are that the Lakers are 5-0 since they have been active and on the court together. I wasn’t too thrilled at shipping out Jordan Clarkson but if this is the acquisition that is helping us win, I am all for it. I was concerned that both of them would have had issues with playing off the ball as they both are playmakers and like the ball in their hands. The only difference is that Lonzo Ball is a playmaker for others, while Isaiah Thomas is more of a playmaker and shotmaker for himself.
When they are on the court together it opens the floor up and makes everyone a threat. When you watch them on the court together you can see both of them at the top alternating who will run certain sets. Thomas is a bit more of a threat in the pick and roll game at this point in his career, but Lonzo is better at dictating the pace and putting pressure on the ball on the defensive end. All in all, they both have different styles of play, but it seems that they feed off each other play and are both elevated by it.
Allen: The duo has been solid thus far. With such a passive guard like Ball, it’s great to have a guy alongside him who can score the ball. High-powered backcourts are in and depending on the potential of Ball, the Lakers could have that with these two. Nevertheless, I’m not getting too excited about this pairing because the future of Isaiah Thomas is unknown. He wants to get paid and I’m not sure if the Lakers are willing to give him what he wants especially if they’re looking for guys like LeBron James and Paul George.
4. True or False: The Lakers should re-sign Julius Randle this offseason.
Cortes: True. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this on social media, but I cannot stress enough how good Julius Randle has been for the Lakers and how he needs to be a Laker for the foreseeable future. There’s just no excuse for him not to be a Laker. He finishes well around the rim, he grabs boards, plays solid, versatile defense, and is able to initiate some offense. What’s not to like about Randle? It would be a bad look if the Lakers don’t try to keep him.
King: True. Not a doubt in my mind. The conversation when it comes to free agency and the Lakers is that they can sign two ‘max-players’ (players who sign max-contracts) in free-agency, and by letting Julius Randle walk that they would be better set up to bring in these free-agents. However, I would argue though that Randle is the unsung hero and cornerstone that the Lakers need on their roster.
Randle is the only true threat that the Lakers have on the interior, with Lopez playing more on the perimeter. He has changed his body to be more cut and lean since he was drafted back in 2014. His athleticism and strength are obvious on a nightly basis. He only stands at 6’9″ but he plays bigger by outmuscling and outrebounding his nightly match-ups. His activity on defense which sparks fast-breaks and results in easy baskets on the other end is something that goes unnoticed.
Allen: True but that answer can change. When it comes to Julius Randle I tend to go back and forth about his spot on this roster. He’s a great talent and that’s no question. But what kills me with his game is when he decides that he wants to be a black hole. A lot of the time when he gets the ball, it’s not coming back. Randle’s selfishness can be overbearing and frustrating to watch but when he’s good, he’s very good and he shines.
5. Kobe Bryant became the first athlete to ever win an Oscar on Sunday. If they made a movie about his life, who should play Mamba?
Cortes: Only Kobe can act like Kobe.
King: Michael B. Jordan. He already has a rapport with Kobe and in the commercial for Apple TV they already discussed the idea of him playing the role of Kobe. I can see it. Simple.
Allen: Randy hit the nail on the head. Jordan was the exact person that I was thinking of. But he has to make sure his game is sharp!!