3 Players Who Need To Step Up In The Pursuit Of A Championship

(Image/CBS Sports)

The Los Angeles Lakers have been great this season. In-fact, they have been leading the Western Conference comfortably and sustaining the second best record in the league, throughout.

However, not all has been a success for the Lakers. In marquee match-ups against the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, some issues were highlighted.

Aside from superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the purple and gold struggle to find any offensive identity at times, which could prove problematic in any future playoff match-ups. To address these issues, the Lakers are rumoured to be exploring the trade market. Although, if a few players can evolve their games and step-up, no trades will be required.

Here are 3 players that need to step up for the Lakers to get to that next level, in the pursuit of a Championship.

(Image/Chris Elise/NBAE/Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo

This is Rajon Rondo‘s second season as a member of the Lakers. To date, it’s probably fair to say that he’s had a relatively disappointing season. Coming into the the 2019/20 campaign, Rondo was expected to be a primary ball handler that could create shots for other players coming off the bench. That hasn’t been the case.

Being a below average defender and shooter, the 33-year-old’s main form of productivity comes through his passing and play-making. However, he’s been struggling with this aspect of his game.

Rondo has been playing 22 minutes per game this season. In those minutes, he holds averages of 7.6 points and 5.4 assists, paired with 2.1 turnovers. Many of these minutes come when LeBron James isn’t on the court, meaning the main play-making responsibilities fall in Rondo’s control. But he’s failed to take advantage of that.

Rondo somehow needs to be able to utilise his minutes better, by shooting the ball consistently, spreading the ball to space, and having a better assist to turnover ratio. If so, then the Lakers’ lack of scoring without James and Anthony Davis can be answered.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Quinn Cook

Coming into the season, Quinn Cook was a player who was supposed to be a sharpshooter off the bench. Not just a spot-up shooter, but also a player that could create his own shot.

Funnily enough, the description above matches the exact type of player that the Lakers are pursuing with the NBA trade deadline approaching.

Cook has had impressive games this season, there’s no doubting that. With the most recent being in the loss against the Orlando Magic, where he lit up for 22 points, on 9-14 shooting, 4-7 from 3. In that game, he was instrumental in helping the purple and gold cut down a 20 point deficit.

But these games have been few and far between. A lot of this could come down to lack of minutes though. Although, it can be said, that in the minutes he has received, Cook has not become dependable enough to see the court more.

If he can become more productive offensively, on a consistent basis, as well as developing as a play-maker, he can truly be a force in a postseason run.

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Kyle Kuzma

Kyle Kuzma was one of the few players retained by the Lakers this past off-season. His ability to be a catch-and-shoot, lights-out scorer alongside LeBron James, on a cap friendly contract, earned him a significant spot on the roster for this season.

But.. Kuzma’s campaign has been very polarising so far. There are occasional games where he can light it up and explode for 20+ points, but there are also games where he will fall out of rhythm, and struggle with his shooting. The latter being more frequent.

From a defensive standpoint, he’s not terrible. He’s actually been much improved this season, but it’s unfair to label him an above average defender. He still requires some further development on that side of the ball.

So when he’s struggling to find it offensively, and due to him not being an established lock-down defender, there’s little reason for him to be on the court. Granted, when Kuzma gets plentiful touches and shots, he can be a threat. But when James and Davis are sharing the floor with him, this proves difficult.

In order for Kuzma to turn the Lakers from a great team to a near unstoppable team, he needs to improve as a wing defender, relying on more than athleticism to stop his opponents. He also needs to learn how to do more with less and produce offensively. Even when he doesn’t get the touches he wants.

If this can happen, Kyle Kuzma can become the third scoring threat that everyone saw him as coming into the season.

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