LeBron James’ excessive minutes problem: Lakers fall apart without Anthony Davis

LeBron James is once again stellar through the first seven games of the 2023-24 regular season. He averaged 25.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, which is incredible for a player of his age, but there is one number that stands out the most: 35.9 minutes per game. .

LeBron was supposed to be on a minutes restriction to start the year. Instead, he ranks in the top ten in minutes per game. This high point total was much needed as the Lakers played terribly without him.

In the fiercely competitive Western Conference, the Lakers achieved a record of 3 wins and 4 losses, but they soon found themselves in an unsustainable situation.

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Lakers fall apart when LeBron James goes off the court

When LeBron isn’t on the court, his teams are always worse. But no superstar has had a bigger difference in his on-court and off-court numbers this season.

According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers outscore their opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions when LeBron is on the court. They’re 37.0 points better per 100 possessions when he sits. That’s a huge 48.6-point difference when he’s on the floor versus when he’s not.

Anthony Davis failed to pick up the slack in LeBron’s absence. His own playing time has also been extended – his 36.9 minutes per game ranked fifth in the league. But according to PBP statistics, the Lakers score more than 41 points per 100 possessions when Davis is on the court without LeBron.

All the pressure on the Lakers’ two superstars is unsustainable. Neither has appeared in more than 56 games over the past four seasons, and Davis has been dealing with the mild pain that has plagued him throughout his career. He had to withdraw from Monday’s game after falling and feeling discomfort in his hip/groin area.

The Lakers had to rely heavily on LeBron and Davis due to poor performance from other role players. D’Angelo Russell is showing the same issues he had last season with his shot selection. Austin Reeves and Gabe Vincent have been cold to start the season.

Taurean Prince and Christian Wood were the only players off the bench who played well. But the Lakers will need more contributions from other players if they want to get back to the Western Conference Finals or beyond.

Austin Reeves and Anthony Davis talk during Lakers timeout

Jared Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura can’t come back fast enough

The Lakers’ heavy reliance on LeBron and Davis and poor performance off the bench are also partly due to injuries to the Lakers’ role players. Hachimura has played in just three games this season, and Jared Vanderbilt has yet to appear in a game for the Lakers.

Both players were key contributors last season and should help ease the burden on LeBron. Rui Hachimura in particular looked to be turning things around, scoring nine straight points in one quarter before suffering a concussion and missing a week of action.

According to Basketball-Reference’s projections, the Lakers currently have a record of 38 wins and are expected to rank eighth in the Western Conference at their current pace. That pace isn’t good enough, and they can’t continue to rely on LeBron and Davis to play so many minutes without incurring injuries.

If the return of Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura doesn’t solve their problems, this could quickly become a team desperate for trades to shake things up.

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