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Why the Los Angeles Lakers’ best basketball is ahead after its first victory

The Los Angeles Lakers won its first game of the season against the Denver Nuggets. Here are three reasons why the Lakers' best basketball is ahead of them.

Austin Konenski
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have a great start to the season as they lost five straight games until a very impressive performance against the Denver Nuggets with a 121-110 victory.

However, the Lakers’ best basketball is ahead of them for a variety of reasons.

New additions to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup will continue to improve

NBA: Preseason-Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers
Oct 6, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonnie Walker IV (4) dribbles away from Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell (4) during a preseason game at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles has a number of new players ranging from Patrick Beverley, Lonnie
Walker, Troy Brown Jr., and the recently recovered Kendrick Nunn after missing the entire 2021-’22 season.

The organization made some stellar pickups with Walker being the best of the bunch in the early portions of the season. Walker has averaged 14.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.3 minutes per game.

The 23-year-old will only improve while surrounded by players such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Outside of Walker, Los Angeles’ starting point guard, Beverley, will get better as the season progresses.

Beverley’s overall shooting is down exactly 12.0% while his three-point shooting is down over 15.0% compared to last season. The 34-year-old has started the season slowly but should round into form soon.

Speaking of rounding into form, the same can be said about the Lakers’ three-point shooting after a very rough stretch to start the 2022-’23 season.

Related: Los Angeles Lakers reportedly still working hard to complete blockbuster deal

Los Angeles Lakers’ three-point shooting is on the rise

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves
Oct 28, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) works around Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) in the fourth quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers boast the league’s worst three-point percentage at 26.6% to start the season but that has not been the case over the last two games. Perhaps, it is a sign of what needs to happen for the team to win.

Los Angeles has shot 37.3% percent from beyond the arc over that stretch which would rank as 11th best in the league. It is major as that’s an over 10% jump compared to the season average.

This was an issue that plagued the Lakers last season. They shot 34.7% from the three-point line in 2021-’22. If they were to ever fully fix this issue with James, it would produce great results moving forward.

Most notably, the shooting contribution from the bench has been a major reason behind the jump. The bench shot 7-of-13 from the three-point line in their victory against the Nuggets.

Could this sudden change, specifically in the last game, be due to the new energy that a certain former star point guard is bringing forth in his new role?

Related: Lakers defeat Nuggets to capture first win of season

Russell Westbrook coming off the bench brings life to the second unit

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers
Oct 30, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates with guard Lonnie Walker IV (4) after a 3 point basket in the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Many fans and media members have pointed the finger at Russell Westbrook’s struggles on why the Lakers have struggled since the start of the 2021-’22 season. That continued into the beginning of this season.

Russell Westbrook’s stats as a starter (2022-’23): 10.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 28.9% shooting

Westbrook struggled as a starter to start the year which led Los Angeles to demote him to the bench. It is an unusual spot for the 33-year-old point guard as he has been a star player throughout his career.

However, ever since Westbrook was benched, the statistics have boomed. The point guard is averaging 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists while shooting 41.4% from the field and 37.5% from the three-point line.

That is a jump of almost 30% compared to his time as a starter. It is clear he is better as a bench player for this current Lakers team and it has provided a boost to everyone.

All of these factors combine together to suggest the Lakers’ best basketball has yet to come. Perhaps, James and Davis could find themselves leading a playoff team again.