The Lakers Just Lost Their Best Player

Who needs to step up with AD out?

Jordan Pagkalinawan
Boundless & Ballin’

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Image via Silver Screen & Roll

While all eyes were on the World Cup Final, Lakers fans received the news that Anthony Davis will miss “at least one month” with a right foot injury sustained against Denver last week.

Now, the 12–16 Lakers are forced to turn to other options to salvage their season. Here are some players and storylines to watch as Davis recovers.

Players to Watch

LeBron and Westbrook

The Lakers will be relying on the two other members of their big three to keep their hopes alive.

LeBron has been incredible in his 20th season, averaging 26.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game on 48–31–74 splits. He has also notched eight 30-point games this year. In a season where many thought he would decline, James has continued to defy Father Time, leading the Lakers time and again as he eyes a return to the postseason.

Westbrook — who was once the ire of Lakers fans around the world — has turned his play around to be a solid third option for the Lakers, enough to possibly make a run for the “Sixth Man of the Year” award. Russ has embraced his new role under Darvin Ham, averaging 15.2 points, eight assists and six rebounds this year on 41–30–68 splits. He recently made franchise history, becoming the first Laker to have multiple triple-doubles off the bench.

James and Westbrook will be leading the charge for LA while Davis is out. Fans can only hope their heroics will be enough to keep the team afloat.

Lonnie Walker IV

Walker IV has been outstanding for the purple and gold this season, boasting 15.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.7 steals a game on 47–38–85 splits. On a team loaded with guards, the 24-year-old is doing his best to ensure he stands out, carving out a starting role for himself and succeeding along the way.

Walker’s energy and athleticism has been a joy to watch for the Laker faithful, and he will only have more opportunities to contribute to a winning culture.

Austin Reaves

Another guard who will have increased opportunities is fan-favorite Austin Reaves. In his second year, he has put up nearly 11 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 2.1 APG on 51–37–91 splits. Reaves has proven himself to be a gritty two-way player who can thrive either as a starter or off the bench. He has a knack for scoring, notching three games with 20 or more points and ending 14 games in double figures.

Reaves has also shown an increased maturity in his second season, taking blame for some of the Lakers’ recent losses where he missed key free throws.

His experience as a returner will be key on a team full of new additions — even if they have played nearly 30 games so far.

A true 3-and-D guard, he, like Walker, has stood out as a guard who can step up outside of the big three. His talents will be utilized greatly as the Lakers face star guards in Bradley Beal, De’Aaron Fox and Devin Booker in the coming games.

The Bigs

Lastly, the Lakers will be needing Davis’s backups — Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones and Wenyen Gabriel — to hold their own as the main man recovers.

Bryant played arguably his best game of the season last night, scoring 21 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals against the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. He has averaged 9.4 PPG and 4.2 RPG on 71–33–70 splits and has been an underrated signing for the team’s frontcourt.

Jones, on the other hand, has been underwhelming for the Lakers this year. He has played 14 games and put up 2.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 0.5 BPG while shooting nearly 54% from the field and 78% from the free-throw line. Jones still holds value as a rim protector and lob threat; however, he will need to pick up the pace quickly and become a valuable part of LA’s center rotation.

Gabriel has been a bright spot for the team, possibly earning a rotation spot along the way. Before he suffered a shoulder injury, he put up 5.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 0.5 BPG on 60–30–81 splits in 20 games. He has been a constant energizer in the Lakers’ frontcourt, and once he returns, he will also have to share the load with Bryant and Jones in an effort to hold down the fort.

Is Help on the Way?

The Lakers have been at the forefront of trade rumors for what feels like forever, but now things could get serious with their best player sidelined.

In a season where James and Davis have shouldered most of the work and fans have clamored for trades to be made, Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka have been stagnant in their assistance. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha reported that the Lakers won’t likely be making trades for the next “two-to-four weeks”. Could Davis’s injury force them to engage in talks sooner? Fans can only hope so.

Even if the Lakers do not make a deal, this period should be enough for the front office to really take a look at the team’s deficiencies and see which trade targets fit the mold — if they haven’t been doing so all season long. LA has been so reluctant to make a move that an injury like Davis’s has larger complications — ones where the executives could make or break the rest of the season.

For now, Lakers fans are left to wait and see how the team responds to even more adversity. It’s on everyone — not just players above mentioned — to step up and live up to the ideals that Ham has preached throughout the year. It’s also on the front office to get Davis and James the help they need.

Teams can only compete if their players bring the energy and their front office makes the right moves. Whether the Lakers can do both remains to be seen.

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Jordan Pagkalinawan
Boundless & Ballin’

Top Writer in NBA & Sports. Student journalist & podcaster. Socials manager at PerThirtySix, editor for Last Word on Hoops, & writer for YRMedia. Emerson ’26.