NBA Scout Says LeBron James' Lakers Will Miss Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard in Playoffs

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 20, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors during the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament on May 19, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

A longtime NBA scout reportedly believes the current version of the Los Angeles Lakers are "not as good" as the squad that captured the 2020 NBA title, in part because of the departures of Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated provided the scout's take Thursday after the Lakers clinched the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a win over the Golden State Warriors as part of the play-in tournament on Wednesday night:

"The scout said the Lakers will miss the leadership, experience and mental toughness of veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who is now with the LA Clippers, and the effectiveness and fit at the center position of Dwight Howard, who is now with the Philadelphia 76ers. The scout added that the Lakers haven't figured out how to get the best out of Montrezl Harrell and will need more production and fire from [Anthony] Davis all around. Perhaps having Davis play more center is the answer, as he made nine of 13 shots against the Warriors at that position after missing all seven shots while playing alongside Andre Drummond."

L.A.'s placement in the West bracket is not a representation of its talent.

The Lakers were second in the conference with a 21-7 record on Feb. 14, the date of Anthony Davis' last game before being sidelined for nine weeks with calf and Achilles injuries. By the time he returned on April 22, LeBron James had also been out of the lineup for five weeks because of a high ankle sprain.

Those critical injuries, combined with Dennis Schroder recently being held out for over two weeks while in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, caused Los Angeles to tumble down the standings.

The Lakers returned to full strength in time for the play-in tournament and came back from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat the Warriors, but the question is whether they'll be able to find top form in time to make a serious charge.

Despite the questions about whether L.A. sufficiently replaced Rondo and Howard, the scout told Spears you can't completely count out the reigning champs.

"You know why? They got the monster in LeBron," the scout said. "You saw what he did against the Warriors. I'd never bet against that guy."

James recorded 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double in the win over Golden State.

Both Rondo's Clippers and Howard's Sixers are also in the postseason, so it's possible the Lakers could cross paths with their former teammates if they make a deep playoff run.

Up first is a series with the second-seeded Phoenix Suns, who went 2-1 against L.A. during the regular season. None of those games came with the Lakers at full strength, though.

The first-round matchup tips off in Phoenix on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.