3 Takeaways from Lakers' March Performance

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 31, 2022

3 Takeaways from Lakers' March Performance

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The disaster movie that is the Los Angeles Lakers' 2021-22 NBA season is trudging toward an uninspiring, increasingly inevitable conclusion.

    Beyond the presence of name-brand stars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, there is zero reason to believe a turnaround is coming. The Lakers have trended down for two-plus months, following a mildly respectable (albeit disappointing) 21-19 start with a woeful 10-25 performance ever since.

    Tuesday's 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks was the Lakers' 11th in March alone. That's the same number suffered by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a rebuilder that has shut down a big chunk of an already gutted roster in hopes of improving their draft-lottery odds.

    There's no hope left in Hollywood—just the following three things to take away from this frustrating stretch.

This Can't Work Without Anthony Davis

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    Cole Burston/Getty Images

    James has played on teams in which his presence alone was enough to keep things humming along. This is not one of them.

    Trust us: He has tried. Before an ankle injury got the better of him, his heavy lifting included pumping in the second-most points per game of his career—in his age-37 season, no less—and shouldering the Association's seventh-highest usage percentage, per Basketball Reference.

    But the one-man show isn't working, because it was never designed to do so. Instead, James was intended to serve in a two-player partnership at the top with Davis. That hasn't happened. The Brow's many battles with the injury bug have limited him to just 37 appearances—none since Feb. 16—in the team's 75 games. That breaks the formula of a team financially designed to be top-heavy.

    In a perfect world, Davis would either be co-starring for this squad or taking the torch from James and ascending to the throne. In reality, he's stuck on the sidelines, and this club has run out of ways to cover for his many absences.

The Rock-Bottom Basement Keeps Dropping

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    What is rock-bottom for these Lakers?

    Ask that question in the preseason, when pundits were picking this team to win the West, and maybe it would have been missing out on a top-four seed and opening the playoffs away from home. Pose it at midseason, and perhaps it would have involved being forced to earn a postseason spot in the Play-In Tournament.

    Fast-forward to now, though, and even the Play-In Tournament might be out of reach. Tuesday's loss put the Lakers into a virtual tie with the San Antonio Spurs, but the latter owns the tiebreaker—plus a (slightly) easier schedule the rest of the way.

    "We are who we are," James told reporters after the Lakers blew a 20-point halftime lead against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. "There's not much of a process...it's frustrating, obviously. But we are who we are; it's not like trying to figure out something more than that."

    The Lakers look broken beyond repair. The front office will have a hard time fixing that this summer.

Malik Monk Has Been a Bright Spot

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    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    Dating back to last summer's blockbuster trade for Russell Westbrook, the Lakers haven't guessed right on much of late. But their minimal investment in scoring guard Malik Monk has at least exceeded expectations.

    The fifth-year guard is turning his stat sheet into a string of personal bests, thanks in no small part to the strides he has made with consistency. He has always been a spark plug, but those sparks are igniting flames with increasing frequency.

    He seems destined to end this season on a high note too. His 28-point performance Tuesday pushed his March average to 16.3 points per game, and he has matched that volume with equally impressive efficiency. His shooting slash is a robust 49.7/39.4/84.2, and he is more than doubling his 1.6 turnovers with 3.5 assists.

    The Lakers are limited in what they can pay him this offseason, but they will likely do whatever they can to make it happen. His net efficiency differential paces all of their rotation players at a healthy plus-8.2 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com.

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