KEY POINTS

  • The Los Angeles Lakers need LeBron James now more than ever
  • Advanced stats website Cleaning the Glass gives a clearer insight into the Lakers' struggles
  • James needs his co-stars Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook to lead the way on both ends of the court when he is out

The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a very slow start to their season, and fans may be wondering whether it is time to panic as highlighted by their blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Perennial All-Stars Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook are having difficulty in carrying the Lakers in LeBron James’ absence, and it showed as the two combined for only 45 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.

When they acquired Westbrook in the offseason, fan opinion was split down the middle as many believed that they should have acquired Buddy Hield instead from the Sacramento Kings due to the glaring lack of depth on the roster.

Losing twice to the Oklahoma City Thunder when they had massive leads going into the second half is indicative of the issues that have been plaguing the Lakers.

According to subscription-based advanced stats website Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers are in desperate need to have James play heavy minutes if they want to, at best, make the playoffs as a sixth or seventh seed as he gives the 17-time NBA champions a plus-32 win differential when he plays.

Prior to the start of the season, the Lakers were expected to win around 57 to 60 games this season and that is assuming that all of the Lakers are healthy.

But with how they are playing now, the Lakers are projected to win just 28 games, well below their expectations of competing for a title.

Rookie Austin Reaves joins James on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury, while Davis is very clearly still reeling from the effects of his groin injury during last season’s playoffs.

The team stats do not look encouraging as well.

The Lakers currently rank 24th in scoring points per 100 possessions with around 105 points per game and 20th in the same category, giving up almost 110 points per game this season, as per Cleaning the Glass.

That ranks them well below Western Conference powerhouses like the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors, who are enjoying their most recent blowout victory against the Brooklyn Nets.

In James’ absence, head coach Frank Vogel needs to prioritize his team’s defense first as they are ranked 23rd in effective field goal percentage, meaning that opposing teams can easily put up big numbers against the Lakers' defense.

To their credit, they have defended the midrange pretty well as they rank in the top six but are ranked 23rd in defending three-point shots.

The offense will come easily to them as the season progresses since they have a ton of weapons that can shoot well from three and score in transition, but the real concern is converting their midrange shots as the Lakers are only converting their points from that area 40.6 percent of the time.

Taking into account all of the statistics mentioned, the Lakers should focus more on building their team chemistry and identity, not on whether they make the playoffs.

All stats are currently pointing in the opposite direction, but the impending return of James should help them out.

Moreover, they need the rest of the team to contribute when their opportunity arises.