There’s no bigger factor towards the success of the Los Angeles Lakers than health. If LeBron James or Anthony Davis are out of action, LA is going nowhere fast.
It’s also safe to say that the Lakers need more than just LeBron and AD to get them to where they want to go. Russell Westbrook was slated to be that third piece of the puzzle and that hasn’t exactly worked out great.
The Lakers have gotten some masterful performances from other members of their supporting cast at different points in the season. Austin Reaves, Talen Horton-Tucker and especially Malik Monk of late have had big games for the purple and gold throughout the year.
But the player that truly moves the needle for the Lakers this season is Carmelo Anthony.
Carmelo Anthony is the Lakers’ measuring stick
Melo hasn’t retained his star power the same that LeBron James has in his 19th season. However, on nights when Anthony is on for the Lakers, it’s been a pretty significant indicator for their on-court success.
Carmelo Anthony has scored 20 or more points nine times this season. The Lakers have gone a sterling 7-2 in those contests. In contrast in the 17 instances when Melo scored 10 or fewer points, the Lakers are 6-11 in such games.
This isn’t to say that his impact is anywhere near that of LeBron James or Anthony Davis. It’s a prerequisite that those guys play well for the Lakers on a nightly basis. But when Melo resembles his old superstar self at least in spurts, he elevates the team’s play in a big way.
Carmelo Anthony having himself a night for the Lakers so far 🔥
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 3, 2022
There’s no player on the Lakers whose play has been so drastically different in wins compared to losses than Carmelo Anthony.
From LeBron James to Austin Reaves, all of LA’s rotation players have performed roughly the same for either result.
LeBron has scored 28.5 points per game on 53% shooting in wins and 29.8 points on 51.4% shooting in losses. The difference for AD and Westbrook comes down to a single point and percentage tick.
The biggest non-Melo swing is Malik Monk, who jumps from 11.9 points on 45.6% from the field in losses to 13.9 points on 48.8% shooting in wins.
Carmelo Anthony on the other hand goes from a 11.5 points per game to 15.5 points in Lakers wins. His leap in efficiency is even more drastic, going from an absolutely brutal 36.8 FG% in losses up to an extremely efficient 51.5% in wins.
Perhaps even more telling is Melo’s three-point shot. He takes the most threes on the Lakers among players not named LeBron James with close to six attempts per game. In Lakers wins, he’s shot 50% from deep but in losses he’s shot even worse than Russell Westbrook from downtown at 29.7%. Even Melo’s free-throw shooting is nearly 10 percentage points higher in victories.
At the end of the day, Carmelo Anthony’s Jekyll and Hyde performances aren’t really something that the Lakers control. It’s no surprise that a player with nearly 50,000 minutes of NBA mileage on him has become as inconsistent as he has.
However, what it does point to is how important it is for the Lakers to have consistent and reliable threats surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Those two are both top five players when healthy and will put up numbers no matter what, win or lose.
A hot night from a guy like Melo to flank them often spells the difference between either result. That brings reason for optimism that this season can still be salvaged.
It’s much, much easier said than done that the other Lakers veterans need to find consistency. Melo will continue to have his hot shooting nights for the rest of the year. Malik Monk has elevated his game as of late to try and fill the role as the third offensive threat for the Lakers.
And perhaps the Lakers can get Russell Westbrook to turn his season around despite all the vitriol hurled at him throughout the year for his struggles. After all, the former MVP has shown that he’s often been a post All-Star break kind of performer in the last few seasons.
If the perfect storm comes for the Lakers in the second half of the season – LeBron and AD stay healthy, Melo and Monk have more good days than bad, and Russ gives LA something – other teams in the West need to watch out. It’s a pretty big if, but all is not lost in Los Angeles.