The Lakers need to stay afloat while LeBron James recovers from his ankle injury. That means these three players need to step up for Los Angeles.
The presence of both LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers roster was designed, in part, to protect Los Angeles against the absence of either of their superstars. Playing without both luminaries is a different sort of challenge for Frank Vogel and his team. Plenty of Lakers’ co-stars are going to need to step up during LeBron’s injury absence.
The goal for Los Angeles without James is going to be to stay afloat. They’re not going to dominate the Western Conference without their talisman. If the Lakers can avoid losing serious ground in the playoff race while James’ ankle heals it will go down as a major victory.
No one player is going to help the Lakers stay competitive without LeBron. Instead, Los Angeles fans should look for the following trio of rotation players to up their games in the short-term.
3. Talen Horton-Tucker
Horton-Tucker has been a nice bench piece for the Lakers this season, but his minutes are going to increase sharply during LeBron’s absence. The key for the 20-year-old wing will be to avoid the temptation to try to do too much.
That’s particularly important given Horton-Tucker’s weakness as a shooter. He’s shooting under 25 percent from 3 which weighs his effective field goal percentage down to a sub-optimal mark of 48.2 percent through 39 games.
Instead of trying to boost his offensive production, Horton-Tucker needs to double down on what he does best. Mainly, that means he needs to work hard on replacing James as the team’s defensive stopper during their next stretch of games. Serving as a connecter on the offensive end of the floor can only help Los Angeles’ attack as well.
Horton-Tucker isn’t going to blossom into a star during James’ absence, but he can step up and prove he’s ready for a starting role in the future. Whether or not that will happen for him in Los Angeles is still an open question.