JaVale McGee, LeBron James-Less Lakers Crush Pelicans Without Anthony Davis

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 1, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31: JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans  on March 31, 2019 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 2019 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

Rajon Rondo posted 24 points and 12 assists and JaVale McGee added 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Orleans Pelicans 130-102 on Sunday at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Julius Randle scored 17 points for the 32-46 Pels, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

Alex Caruso scored 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added four steals for the 35-42 Lakers, who won their fourth matchup in five tries.

Lakers forward LeBron James and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis did not play. James is out for the season to rest a groin injury suffered on Dec. 25. Davis sat with back spasms.


Lakers Must Re-Sign McGee

The Lakers will undergo a seismic offseason shift after finishing with a losing record in James' first season in Los Angeles.

We know that James will be around, and we also know that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka should be running the show.

Everything else is up in the air.

One thing that shouldn't be is the status of McGee, who has been excelling when given the chance lately.

McGee has averaged 17.4 points and 13.0 rebounds in his last nine games, punctuated by his dominant Sunday effort.

It helps that he can do things like this:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Big fella with an even bigger wingspan! @JaValeMcGee ➕1️⃣ #LakeShow (📺: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/S96uFPzl7A

The 31-year-old center is second on the team in player efficiency rating behind only James, per Basketball Reference. He's also tied for 22nd in the NBA in that mark.

Granted, McGee only plays 22.2 minutes per game (and has never played more than 27.8 in a single season), but he's a very efficient and energetic player whenever he's on the court.

And granted, McGee will be 32 years old next season, but he doesn't have a lot of mileage on him compared to other veterans. Of note, he didn't average more than 11.1 minutes per game from 2014-15 to 2017-18.

McGee also told Lakers team reporter Kevin Ding (h/t Christian Rivas of Silver Screen and Roll) that he'd be interested in coming back.

"Of course I wouldn't mind coming back to the L.A. Lakers, one of the most historic franchises in the league. That's a given," McGee told Ding. "But you know how the offseason goes and how free agency goes and how teams go when they feel a necessity. If they feel they need me, then they'll bring me back."

McGee also happened to reference why he's such a valuable player.

"I can play at a high rate without getting injured and with proficiency," McGee said. "My averages per minute are up there, higher than I've ever had. So I feel like I proved that this season ... besides pneumonia, of course."

The big man was hospitalized with pneumonia for three days in December, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He also said he still doesn't feel like his "true self."

That's hard to imagine after watching McGee play Sunday, but one thing is for certain: The Lakers shouldn't make the mistake of letting him walk once his one-year deal runs out. He's part of the solution to return to the playoffs for the first time in six years.


Randle Reminds Lakers Front Office It Made Massive Mistake

Here are Randle's stats over the last seven games leading into Sunday: 25.0 points on 49.3 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists.

Those are solid numbers for an All-Star making $30 million per season, but Randle is on the first leg of a two-year, $18 million contract.

Simply put, how could the Lakers let their former first-round pick get away?

The ex-Kentucky star is a super productive player when given the chance, and he's tied for 31st in the league in player efficiency rating, per Basketball Reference. He's also a halfway decent three-point shooter for a big man as well, nailing 33.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

For context, Randle's PER number would rank third on the Lakers, and he'd actually be sixth on the team in three-point shooting. Considering that Los Angeles is second-last in the league in three-point shooting percentage, Randle's long-range efforts would be a welcome sight.

The 24-year-old didn't shine on Sunday, scoring 17 points and committing five turnovers. However, he did score those 17 points in just 23 minutes and made two three-pointers as well. Randle added five boards and three dimes.

The fact that that performance is an off-night for Randle shows how much the Lakers could have used his production on a team that has lost much with injuries to James, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

As Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com reported, the Lakers didn't even make an offer to Randle, who was a restricted free agent and would have stayed in Los Angeles had the team matched any contract for him:

"Even though the Lakers controlled Randle's rights as a restricted free agent, L.A. never made an offer to him, sources told ESPN. This despite coach Luke Walton and his staff's preference to keep Randle, as earlier reported by The Athletic and confirmed by ESPN."

Frankly, Randle's performance this season proves the Lakers misused him. Check out this Basketball Reference stat for instance:

Basketball Reference @bball_ref

Last night was Julius Randle's 9th 30-point game of the season. He had 2 in total with the #Lakers https://t.co/zAH81W8r1W https://t.co/fuYDZls5UC

Los Angeles is just No. 23 in offensive efficiency, per ESPN.com, so the power forward could have helped.

Ultimately, the Lakers' disappointing season has many causes, none more so than the unfortunate injuries that their best players suffered. However, offseason moves have also taken their toll, perhaps none more so than letting Randle walk.


What's Next?

The Lakers will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, and the Pelicans will host the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.