Washington at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CST (NBA TV)
Spread: LAL -11.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Any notions that the Los Angeles Lakers might struggle with its new additions have been firmly squashed with L.A.’s 16-2 start this season. The team is clicking, meshing, and building chemistry as it runs away with the early Western Conference lead. Tonight’s “challenge” will be hosting the Washington Wizards as 11.5-point favorites at the Staples Center.
The game is the second of an NBA TV Black Friday doubleheader, and the point total is set at 235 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Los Angeles Lakers have won its last nine games, and everything simply appears to be falling into place once again for the Lakers, which is not really a surprise now that LeBron James is surrounded by the type of talents he prefers (not young ones!).
Anthony Davis has thrived as a Laker, and even Dwight Howard is experiencing something of a renaissance while playing with LBJ. He simply makes everyone better, whether it is inspiring his teammates to a higher level of play, or aiding their scoring with his deft passing abilities.
While there has been (some) discussion of James’ defensive abilities beginning to decline, his offense is showing little of that decline. He is averaging 25.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 11.0 assists per game, and he is making Davis look better than ever before (which might not be that hard considering how disastrous his career had been in New Orleans to this point).
Davis is averaging 26.1 points per game while attempting 19 field goals a night (trails LeBron here by just 0.9 shots per game). The Lakers are still hoping for a lot more from some players, particularly Kyle Kuzma, who has been slow in rebounding from his early-season injury.
Kuzma is the No. 3 scorer at 12.3 per game, but the Lakers really would probably prefer it if he could up that close to 15 per game since he is the natural No. 3 option in the offense after gutting so much talent to acquire Davis. Rajon Rondo, too, is coming along somewhat slowly, though perhaps expectations were not really that high for the veteran guard to begin with.
The most impressive and sneaky addition has certainly been Howard. He is showing all the defensive instincts, talents, and communication aspects that once made him a three-time defensive player of the year. Now able to focus fully on defense, he is making a bigger impact than any other player in the league averaging single-digit scoring. His 6.8 points per game are nearly all “opportunity buckets,” and his 1.7 blocks/steals barely even speak to the dominance he has shown on that end of the court. Albeit, Howard plays just 20 minutes a game now, though, so extending those numbers to a per-36 status puts him among the league’s defensive leaders.
And again, this was a Lakers team expected to struggle defensively. It has not. It is also scoring the ball so well, that even if some struggles happen this should be a contending team by the end of the season, as all early indications show the Lakers to be among the league’s elite—again.
The Washington Wizards are just 6-10 on the seasons, though it did win its last outing 140-132 over the Phoenix Suns. This was expected to be a tough season for the Wiz, who are without franchise player John Wall (potentially forever).
Bradley Beal has assumed the role of No. 1 scorer quite well, but the Wizards really do not have a second option, despite having a number of decent role players that help mitigate that somewhat. Thomas Bryant should be in the running for the league’s most improved player award, with his 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Mortitz Wagner looks like he could be a very promising stretch-4/5, and he has shown his flashes, including a 31-point outing that really showed what he could do with his touch.
Gonzaga product Rui Hachimura is a very mature rookie with a ton of upside, and his 12 points per game are already showing hints of what he could become when this rebuild really takes place. The Wizards are merely treading water at this point, no longer really in limbo as the team had been for a near-decade.
Now it is rebuilding time, and to see the Wizards trade Bradley Beal for prospects and picks come February would not be truly all that surprising. While he is a great scorer, he is not the type of player a GM would necessarily seek to build around.
That is no knock on Beal, simply a statement that the Wizards have extensive team needs and the draft is the more logical way to fulfill them while building towards a future that may be lingering far away, at least in terms of this team being any sort of threat—even in the Eastern Conference.