The NBA regular season has finally begun and the Los Angeles Lakers have already had their fair share of ups and downs. The team started 1-2 in their first three games as many players have stepped up while others, not so much.
Defense remains an issue for the Lakers as they are currently giving up 119 points per game while allowing teams to shoot 47.5 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. All of those rank 25th or worse in the league.
Nonetheless, multiple players have already improven their stock with the Lakers while others have gone down the totem pole. Here’s a look at who’s up and down in the first week of the Lakers’ season.
Jordan Clarkson: After some preseason struggles, Jordan Clarkson has completely turned it around now that the games count. Clarkson is averaging an impressive 19.7 points per game, leading all bench scorers. Additionally, he’s shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep on nearly five attempts per game.
With many players struggling on offense, Clarkson has become the Lakers’ most consistent scoring option so far. If he keeps up this level of play, that potential Sixth Man of the Year Award won’t be out of reach.
Kyle Kuzma: After a rough season opener, with some admitted first-night jitters, Kuzma has returned to his outstanding level of play the last two games. He is averaging 14.3 points on 60.7 percent shooting and always seems to be on the floor whenever the Lakers go on a run.
Finding more minutes with Kuzma and Lonzo Ball on the floor together is a must for Luke Walton as there have been times where he’s frozen out playing with both Clarkson and Julius Randle. Nonetheless, Kuzma continues to prove he is a vital part of this team.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: He might have missed the first two games of the season, but Caldwell-Pope made up for it when he returned. In his lone game KCP finished with 20 points while hitting 50 percent of his threes and adding two steals and a block.
After a less than stellar preseason, KCP showed exactly why he was the perfect 3-and-D signing for the Lakers and even showed he is more than just a spot-up shooter, attacking the rim aggressively. Keeping this up will add a much-needed boost to the Lakers’ starting lineup which has struggled on both ends.
Luol Deng: There is no way to sugercoat it, Luke Walton made an awful decision in starting Luol Deng for the Lakers’ season opener. Deng was completely ineffective, scoring just two points in 13 minutes. Deng has been inactive in the two games since, with Walton saying that he won’t be part of the rotation moving forward.
Deng’s bad play just further illustrates how bad of a decision it was for the Lakers to sign him to his contract. They may want to move him, but at this stage it would be nearly impossible to get someone to take on that deal at his level of performance.
Julius Randle: Randle finally showed signs of life on Sunday as he was flying around the court against the Pelicans, and even playing solid defense. The first two games, however, were a completely different story.
Randle lacked energy and focus with Walton believing he was frustrated by not being a starter. Sunday’s performance on Sunday gives hope that he can turn things around as with Larry Nance Jr. playing well as a starter, and Kuzma continuing to shine, Randle’s minutes could dwindle if he doesn’t.
Tyler Ennis: Ennis’ strong play to end last season earned him a contract to return to the Lakers. Unfortunately he has done very little with this opportunity as he was completely outplayed by Alex Caruso in the preseason, leading to the two-way contract signee getting minutes over him.
When Ennis has gotten the chance to get a few minutes he has made no impact leading to Walton moving Clarkson to point guard for the second unit against the Pelicans. Ennis had the inside track on the backup point guard spot, but now he is barely in the rotation.