3 Lakers players that need to step up with Anthony Davis sidelined

Peter Dewey
6 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers are entering a tough stretch in the 2021-22 season, as they will be without All-Star big man Anthony Davis for a few weeks after he suffered a sprained MCL.

The Lakers avoided disaster, as Davis could’ve been hurt much worse and suffered a potential season-ending injury, but this still will make things tough on the team going forward.

While Davis is having a strong 2021-22 campaign, he is struggling with his 3-point shot. Davis is averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 17.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Davis’ absence certainly hurts the Lakers overall, but it does give them an opportunity to have other players step up in his absence.

Los Angeles is just 16-16 on the season after losing against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Here are three Lakers players that need to step up for the team to make a run and stay in the playoff picture while Davis is out of the lineup:

1. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook

This first option shouldn’t come as a surprise, as this is part of why Westbrook was brought to Los Angeles in the first place.

The Lakers struggled mightily without Davis and LeBron James last season, but the addition of a third star in Westbrook should help the team overcome that during the rest of the 2021-22 campaign.

Westbrook is having a solid season, as he is averaging 19.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc.

As of Dec. 15, the former MVP was also shooting well on his corner 3-point attempts, which is a big step forward considering he shot just less than 30.0 percent from beyond the arc overall in three of his last four seasons before joining the Lakers.

So why does Westbrook have to step up?

The answer is simple. Westbrook has had too many games in the past few weeks where he has taken a step back.

Over his last nine games, Westbrook is averaging just 16.6 points per game while shooting a strong 48.8 percent from the field.

If he is going to score this efficiently, Los Angeles needs him to be more aggressive. The touches should be available to him now with Davis out of the lineup.

The Lakers don’t need Westbrook to mimic some of his performances from his Oklahoma City Thunder days, but they do need him to be a more commanding offensive presence, specifically scoring the ball, with Davis out.

2. Trevor Ariza

Trevor Ariza

Ariza may have just made his season debut, but the Lakers need him to get up to speed fast.

While Ariza doesn’t possess the offensive talent that Davis has, he is an elite defender for his position and played an important role for the Miami Heat last season.

Last season, Ariza averaged 9.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 41.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Los Angeles could use another player, specifically at the forward position, that can knock down shots from beyond the arc.

Davis has struggled mightily with his 3-point shot this season, so it is possible that surrounding James with shooters like Ariza and Carmelo Anthony could actually boost the Lakers offense.

There isn’t much in terms of improvement for Ariza at the moment since he’s only appeared in two games, but the Lakers need him to show why he was such an important signing this past offseason.

3. Talen Horton-Tucker

Talen Horton-Tucker

The Lakers gave Horton-Tucker a major contract extension this past offseason, and now it’s time that he lives up to it.

James has already praised Horton-Tucker publicly, but the third-year wing has left a lot to be desired with his lack of efficiency this season.

Horton-Tucker is one of just six Lakers that is averaging double figures in scoring this season, and one of those players is Isaiah Thomas, who has played in just three games.

In the 2021-22 season, Horton-Tucker is shooting just 38.2 percent from the field and 24.2 percent from beyond the arc. Both of those percentages are the worst of his career, and the Lakers can’t afford that if they want to make a move in the standings without Davis.

The 21-year-old doesn’t have to average 20.0 points per game, but he needs to take some pressure off James and Westbrook in the starting lineup.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.