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On My Hill: The Lakers will be fine but will need to adjust

After the acquisition of Russell Westbrook, questions arose on whether he’d fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Most who know basketball are aware James works best with shooters at the guard position. Westbrook really doesn’t fit that role in the slightest, but that isn’t what he’s there to do.

I was absolutely in favor of another trade that was greenlit over the summer, which would’ve sent Buddy Hield of the Kings to Los Angeles. Hield is a premier three-point shooter and could’ve been an amazing fit with LeBron. 

The Lakers also missed out on the signing of DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is likely putting up his best season in his 13th year as a pro, and he could absolutely be boosting Los Angeles right now. 

This is all besides the point. The hypotheticals get this team nowhere, and the past is in the past. Los Angeles does need to let their roster flourish at their specific roles, and this begins and ends with their big three. 

Since James has entered the twilight of his career he’s had a harder and harder time staying on the court due to his health. Unfortunately his days of being an ironman are over, and his health cannot be counted on. He turns 37 next month, and the championship window is shrinking.

Davis has the body of a Greek god but may be the most fragile superstar in NBA history. He also just can’t be trusted to stay on the hardwood. This year, he looks notably more buff and will try his best to combat his injury woes.

Healthy and rested, these two can give anyone in the league fits with their unstoppable pick-and-roll. There was a legit case to be made for James and Davis to be the top two players in the league following their title run in 2020. 

Westbrook isn’t there to elevate them — he’s there to alleviate them. Certainly James knew bringing in one of the highest motors the NBA has ever seen can make both his and Davis’ lives easier throughout the regular season. Westbrook may be inconsistent, turnover heavy and inefficient as hell, but there has never been a doubt about his effort. If Westbrook can help lead the charge and keep the team idle and afloat with either one or both of their dominant duo off the floor, this team has as good of a chance as any to contend for another ring.

Westbrook may not be used with the same usage rate deep in the playoffs, and that’s okay. Being a tertiary scoring option that opens up playmaking and dominating bench units may be what’s best suited for him, and that can go a long way.

Russ isn’t the only issue on this team, though.

Davis has been battling an identity crisis for years now, and it seems that he’s in denial of what his best style is to bring success to LA. The man is 6 feet, 10 inches tall and 250 pounds and is unbelievably skilled for his stature. Still, although he isn’t necessarily bad at it, he relies too much on being a shooter and creating shots anywhere outside the paint. 

Davis pretends his skillset is similar to Devin Booker, in carrying the ball up the court and finding separation and launching pullup jumpers. Davis has the ability to back down literally anybody in the league in the paint and out-muscle them with high percentage layups and dunks, but there’s a problem with this. He just doesn’t want to. 

Davis has outright stated he doesn’t like to play center. According to him, he doesn’t like the physical toll it’s taken on his body. It isn’t at all my place to comment or critique a grown man on what he should and shouldn’t be doing on a basketball court, but if he wants to win another championship, he’s going to have to get over this. He is quite literally built to be a dominant five but would rather take fadeaway midrange and threes. He’s okay in those areas, but absolutely elite as a pick-and-roll finisher.

Davis steamrolled the Spurs on Sunday, racking up 27 points in the first half. Sure, he made a couple threes and a midrange shot, but he excelled inside.

Davis’ versatility is part of what makes him such a unique and tantalizing player. He just can’t rely on his shooting to be the focal point of his contributions to the team. 

The Lakers roster got an overhaul this offseason, and the lack of youth on the team is glaring. They’ve surrounded themselves with seasoned, intelligent players who know what they need to do to help them win. However, their opponents are blowing by them with effort and athleticism. It doesn’t help that James has missed time, but this is something they have to account for.

Fortunately, it’s a long season ahead and this team has more than enough time to figure it out. I’m a firm believer that LeBron James is the best basketball player in NBA history, and I’m confident in his ability to be able to make it all fit. 

Christo Siegel is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Christo by tweeting him at @imchristosiegel. 

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