3 ways the Los Angeles Lakers can survive — and maybe thrive — without Anthony Davis

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Dec 18, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) stands on the court in the first half against the Washington Wizards at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers need to change to stay afloat in a crowded Western Conference. Luckily, there are three tweaks they can make to survive without Anthony Davis.

Los Angeles Lakers fans are down bad after the news that Anthony Davis would miss at least a month with a foot injury. But in a jumbled Western Conference, hope remains, and there are a few ways the Lakers can position themselves to survive the next four-to-six weeks. The best part? These fixes are internal adjustments — no need to sacrifice first-round picks to try and tread water.

You can’t replace a talent like Anthony Davis, but the Lakers are leaving some low-hanging fruit on the table. Implementing these changes will help the Lakers survive until Davis returns…if they have the chutzpah to follow through.

3. Ixnay the Russell Westbrook fourth-quarter minutes

Westbrook’s much-ballyhooed move to the bench has been a positive overall for the Lakers, but he’s continually been a disaster in fourth quarters. Coach Darvin Ham knows; he has slowly been decreasing Russ’ end-game minutes. But Westbrook needs to be excised from the fourth like a malignant tumor. Here is Westbrook’s net rating by quarter:

1st Quarter: -6.2 points per 100 possessions

2nd Quarter: +19.3

3rd Quarter: -4.7

4th Quarter: -18.0 (worst on team)

That minus-18 is almost six points per 100 possessions worse than the next-worst Laker, Wenyen Gabriel. The team as a whole is +0.1 in fourth quarters, meaning that they dramatically outscore opposing squads when Russ is riding the pine.

Westbrook’s ball-watching and baffling decision-making seem to rear their heads most often in the fourth quarter. The more Russ tries to make a play, the more he sabotages the team — particularly on defense. He’s much better earlier in games when he is more content to stay within the team’s offensive and defensive frameworks without trying to be the hero.

65 qualifying players have a usage rate of >=25 percent in fourth quarters this season (Russ is at 25.8 percent). Of those 65, Russ ranks 54th in turnover ratio and 44th in true shooting percentage. Essentially, despite having the ball in his hands a lot, he can’t stop turning it over, and he can’t make a shot. I can actually hear Lakers fans groaning through my TV after every clanked midrange early in the shot clock.

Recently, second-round pick Max Christie has been closing games over Russ, leading to fewer defensive breakdowns and significantly more offensive spacing. With Anthony Davis out for the next few weeks, Ham can no longer afford to massage egos. It’s time for Russ to take a permanent fourth-quarter seat.

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