LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first quarter of their game at Moda Center on October 18, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. Steve Dykes/Getty Images

It’s certainly been an interesting start to LeBron James’ career as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. lost their first three games of the 2018-2019 NBA season, which included a fight that resulted in multiple suspensions and blowing a six-point lead in the final minute of overtime. The Lakers have since won back-to-back games to improve their record to 2-3, winning on the road and defeating the team that had the best record in the Western Conference.

James is putting up his typical, phenomenal stats. He’s averaging 25.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game. Oscar Robertson is the only player to put up those numbers over the course of an entire season while shooting at least 45 percent from the field. Those numbers are incredibly similar to the averages James had a year ago in what was arguably his best offensive season.

It’s difficult to judge James and the Lakers over such a small sample size. The team has a lot of new pieces and they’ve only played a handful of games together. Expectations are always high for both James and the Lakers, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to think this roster can be a real threat to the Golden State Warriors.

How should we characterize James’ first week and a half as a Laker? Here are five important numbers to know about the first five games for Los Angeles and the best player in the NBA:


That’s how many teams the Lakers have played that had a losing record a season ago. A lot has been made about James finally leaving the Eastern Conference, and he’s experienced the difference right away. Los Angeles has already faced the Portland Trail Blazers (49-33), Houston Rockets (65-17), San Antonio Spurs (47-35) and Denver Nuggets (46-36). The Phoenix Suns have been the only cupcake on the Lakers’ schedule, and they took care of them with an easy 131-113 victory in which James didn’t even have to play in the fourth quarter.

The Cleveland Cavaliers started the 2017-2018 season with three of their first five games against teams that would go on to win fewer than 30 games. It’s why they were able to overcome a 5-7 start. If James and his new team fall into a similar early-season hole, it won’t be as easy for them to dig their way out.


Brandon Ingram has only played two games this season because of the four-game suspension he received for throwing punches in a loss to Houston. Ingram finished last year tied as the Lakers’ leading scorer, and he’s supposed to be Los Angeles’ second-best player. L.A. has high hopes for the forward. The Lakers drafted him second overall in 2017 and had no interest in trading him for Kawhi Leonard this past offseason.

If the Lakers want to make any kind of playoff run, Ingram will have to take another leap this season. His scoring average jumped from 9.4 points to 16.1 points from his rookie to his sophomore campaign. Ingram has the best chance of being the Lakers’ second All-Star. Los Angeles will be hard-pressed to win 50 games if James doesn't have a teammate that's at least in the All-Star conversation.

LeBron James Brandon Ingram Lakers
LeBron James #23 and Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate in the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers during their game at Moda Center on October 18, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. Steve Dykes/Getty Images


Ranking 25th in defensive efficiency, the Lakers' defense will be their biggest problem this season. Los Angeles has a 113.9 defensive rating, which would have easily been the NBA’s worst last year. James showed little interest in giving much defensive effort during the 2017-2018 regular season, and he hasn’t been a difference-maker on that end of the floor for Los Angeles. JaVale McGee has been the team’s best defender while ranking second in the league with 2.8 blocks per game, but L.A. has no rim protection when he’s on the bench. The Lakers are in the bottom eight in both made threes allowed an opponents’ three-point percentage.

Los Angeles doesn’t have to be a great defensive team if they remain a top-five offensive unit. James dragged an awful defensive team to the 2018 NBA Finals, though the Lakers can’t afford to be that bad in such a strong conference.


James is shooting 47.9 percent from the field through five games. Averages of 25.8 points and 19.2 shots per game are still good, but it’s not the kind of efficiency that’s made James one of the two greatest players in league history. James shot 54.2 percent from the field last year, and he’s converted less than 50 percent of his field goals in just one of the last nine seasons. Look for his shooting numbers to go up as he shakes off any early-season rust and the year moves along.

You can be certain that James will shoot better than 17.2 percent from three-point range over the final 77 games. He hasn’t shot below 30 percent from distance since his rookie year, and he made more than 36 percent of his threes in each of the last two seasons. James has missed a bunch of makeable layups this season, shooting just 68.2 percent at the rim. He made more than 77 percent of those shots over the last two years. That will correct itself going forward, as well.

LeBron James Brandon Ingram Lakers
LeBron James #23 and Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate in the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers during their game at Moda Center on October 18, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. Steve Dykes/Getty Images


With 107.7 possessions per game, the Lakers are third on the young season in pace. A lot was made before the season about the speed at which Los Angeles wanted to play, and the team has met the expectations set by head coach Luke Walton. It’s paid early dividends on offense. L.A. is scoring 114.8 points per 100 possessions, putting them behind only Toronto, Portland and New Orleans. After finishing 23rd in offensive efficiency last year, the Lakers have scored at least 115 points in each game.

Despite their poor defense, Los Angeles has the ability to outscore most teams. The offense should only get better as Ingram and Rajon Rondo return from their suspensions and Walton discovers which lineups produce the best results.