Many players impressed in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 4-1 series win over the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, namely the superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But another player to hit red-hot form was Markieff Morris, who stepped into the starting 5, as the Lakers opted to play small ball.
JaVale McGee started games 1-3, as he has been all season. However, with the series sitting at a fragile scoreline of 2-1, Frank Vogel placed Morris into the center position. In an attempt to snatch control of the series and progress beyond.
That is exactly what happened. Vogel’s decision to throw Morris into the fire paid off, with the Lakers taking games 4 and 5, 110-100 and 119-96, respectively. Consequently, the purple and gold advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 10 years, since the 2010 title-winning season with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Co.
Morris’ minutes didn’t exactly increase. As his 23 and 24 minutes in games 4 and 5, were pretty much the same as in games 2 and 3, where he played 23 minutes in each. It was more him playing meaningful minutes alongside the premiere cast.
The 31-year-old flourished on both ends of the court and proved why he could be a vital piece to the Lakers’ pursuit of championship number 17. It becomes clearer by the day how much of a bargain the acquisition of Morris was. Being brought in as a free-agent, following his buyout from the Detroit Pistons in February 2020.
Cover image credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images.
In the aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers’ new signing of Dion Waiters, we look into what his skill-set brings, and what that means for players like Quinn Cook.
Does this spell the end of any potential minutes for Cook? Does this make the Lakers a more potent team? What’s the difference between them? All will be explained momentarily.
Waiters vs. Cook
Waiters and Cook are shooters through and through, but what is concerning is the playoffs. Looking at the relatively small sample size as well as what these players have done this year, there isn’t much to say.
Behind the arc that is supposed to be the great equalizer, both players have shot well throughout their careers. Cook at 41.2% and Waiters at 34.8%. Waiters has no rings, Cook has one, and Waiters has played about half the playoff games that Cook has.
In addition, Waiters holds 2 inches over Cook in height, as well as about 30 pounds in weight.
The question here is who do you trust with the ball in their hands come crunch time?
This is where players like Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Alex Caruso all come into play. While Rondo has been inconsistent, there is the phenomenon known as “Playoff Rondo”. Who, a few years ago, was able to help Anthony Davis run right over and sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the postseason.
Is that something the Lakers can expect for a whole playoff run? Time will tell.
Alex Caruso has become a fan favorite and holds a +23 rating playing besides LeBron James. That holds a lot of weight. Plus, the savviness and toughness he brings both offensively and defensively does make up for his average of 5 points per game.
But will he be able to up his offensive production and hold it all together when the lights come on and the dial is turned up 100 levels in the playoffs? With this being the first time he will play in the postseason, all that’s available is hope and speculation. However, if this season is anything of an indicator, it is more likely than not going to be the exact same Alex Caruso.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the long name may sound odd off the tongue, but quietly he has been an integral piece of the Lakers’ rotation. His 10 points per game and nearly 40% shooting from behind the arc is essential.
You could make the case that he deserves to start. But it is working at the moment with him coming off the bench, receiving staggered minutes between units. Although his 1 steal per game is measly, he is 9 out of 10 times playing good man defense and more often than not in the right place at the right time.
Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris are the last bench pieces that jump into consideration also. They both do different things but the eye test is most important.
While both are still trying to really get their roles set on solid ground, they definitely do some good things. Morris a 6-foot-9, “3 and D” type of player. Whereas Kuzma is a scorer at heart, with inconsistent defense.
Kuzma is averaging career lows but the defensive effort has been acceptable. Morris can rebound just as good. if not better, than Kuzma and can hit the 3 more consistently.
Back to Waiters, What Version of Do the Lakers Get?
The Lakers are in need of a competent scorer and a consistent defensive player. Not great but good enough to make people uncomfortable leaving him open and/or exploiting defensively.
Dion Waiters, on paper, checks all the boxes. He’s a guard, can shoot, from within and beyond the 3-point line, and can convert broken players. Some important additions include that he can ball-handle and create for others too. All of this is good, again on paper, but his behaviour of the court has lacked for quite some time now.
Waiters presents a lot of offensive potential should he keep his head in the game. Will the Lakers’ culture prevail and keep him in check? or will the Los Angeles culture have him relapse into bad habits?
While all is yet to be seen, the playoffs are just around the corner. The organisation, as well as Laker Nation, are hoping to receive the lights out walking bucket that Waiters is, with the defensive effort to assist the Lakers bring home championship number 17. Thus, tying the Boston Celtics‘ record in the process.
Cross your fingers, the postseason is almost upon us.