Despite losing their last three games, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a great spot going into the holiday season. With a 24-6 record, the Lakers have a three-game cushion over the No. 2 seed Denver Nuggets, in part because they’ve gone 18-0 against teams with a below .500 record.
But just because the Lakers have exceeded even their own lofty expectations to start the season doesn’t mean they can’t get better. In fact, their three-game losing streak has exposed a few glaring holes on the roster that could come back to haunt them in a seven-game playoff series with teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers, and — to a lesser extent — the Nuggets.
Luckily, so long as they’ve been nice, they can address their needs on their holiday wishlist and even luckier for them, we’ve already compiled a few ideas.
#1: An Andre Iguodala Buyout
The Lakers need an “Andre Iguodala type player,” or simply Andre Iguodala, to be a buffer when LeBron James is taking a breather on the bench. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the Memphis Grizzlies are in the giving spirit, as their plan is to get an asset back from before the Feb. 6 trade deadline and if they’ve waited this long, there’s reason to believe they’ll get a deal done before then — even if it’s not the deal they were initially looking for.
That being said, there’s a slim chance that Iguodala will hit the buyout market and if he does, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka — Iguodala’s former agent — will have a $1.75 million disabled player exception with Iguodala’s name on it.
#2: A Backup Point Guard
The Lakers have eight guards under contract this season, including four guards that have spent the majority of their playing time at the point guard position: Quinn Cook, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso. But while they have a lot of warm bodies at that position, they don’t have much actual depth.
Bradley was great to start the season, but ever since making his return from injury earlier this month, he’s looked as bad as he did with the LA Clippers last season (before a solid spell in Memphis) and the Detroit Pistons before that. Caruso has also been servicable, but he’s more of a two-guard than a lead guard. The only two players that have shown that they can capably handle the ball are Rajon Rondo and Quinn Cook, but they’re both liabilities on the defensive end and what they bring on offense doesn’t make up for their deficiencies on that end.
“True point guards” may not be a priority on a LeBron James-led team, but a guard that can create their own shot is on this Lakers team. They should inquire about D.J. Augustin before the trade deadline or wait to see if Jordan Clarkson hits the buyout market. Neither are perfect options, but they’re upgrades over what the Lakers currently have.
#3: A healthy Kyle Kuzma
With the exception of the month of December, the Lakers have had good luck with health this season, particularly when it comes to their two superstar players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, the one player that hasn’t been able to overcome nagging injuries is Kyle Kuzma, who was supposed to be a key part of the Lakers’ rotation this season.
The third-year forward has been limited to 21 games this season, including just 19 games with James and Davis. In that limited sample size, though, the three-man lineup of James, Davis and Kuzma has posted a +24.1 net rating in 97 minutes.
There are still legitimate concerns about how Kuzma fits with James and Davis spending the bulk of their playing time at the 3 and 4 spots, respectively, but the more time Kuzma’s on the court, the better equipped they’ll be to decide on his future with the team.