No matter who is on the roster next season, the Los Angeles Lakers need to get the basketball in the hands of their best playmakers.
If there is one thing that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James indisputably does better than anyone else in the NBA, it is creating contradictions.
Back when the NBA Players Association gave out an award for “Player You Wish Was On Your Team,” LeBron won it every time — in 2015, 2016 and 2017 — thanks to votes from his own peers in the league. When that award was discontinued in 2018, LeBron won the “Backbone” award, recognized as the player who is the “heart and soul” of his team.
Meanwhile, some current and former players — teammates and observant opponents alike — have said on record that it can be hard to play with LeBron.
The most common narrative is that guys who play with LeBron are relegated to being spot-up shooters who don’t get opportunities to create their own shots due to LeBron’s ball-dominant style.
The upside is that a lot of guys who play with LeBron have career-best seasons, enjoy more team success and make longer playoff runs. Some teammates parlay those positives into very lucrative contracts. Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov are examples of players whose perceived value (and real salary) increased a lot while playing with LeBron.
Although LeBron’s first season with the Lakers did not end well — they went 37-45 and missed the playoffs — it did come with the familiar contradictions about what it’s like to play with the future Hall-of-Famer.
Some teammates — namely Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and JaVale McGee — saw their scoring averages rise to career-high levels. Others apparently felt like they didn’t get the ball as much as they could or should have.
Lakers swingman Josh Hart recently went on Gilbert Arenas’ “No Chill” podcast and talked about his experience in 2018-19:
"“I trained for what I thought was going to be my role, but then we got ‘Bron, and it was kinda like my summer work … it switched up,” Hart said. “You go in thinking you’re gonna take more of a role in being more of a playmaker or a decision maker, or something like that, handle the ball a little bit more, to being just a shooter.”"
Hart averaged 7.8 points per game this season after averaging 7.9 points as a rookie, even though his playing time went up slightly. His overall field goal attempts and 3-point attempts were up, but his 2-point attempts and shooting percentages were down. In short, the numbers back up Hart’s assessment of his role on the Lakers.
Should Hart have been given more chances to be a playmaker and shot-creator? Is he the only one who could make the Lakers better with more offensive responsibilities?
Here are three Lakers who should have the ball more next season.