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Why does LeBron James have to play continuously for the Los Angeles Lakers even at nearly 39 years old?

Despite nearing the age of 39, LeBron James continues to exhibit remarkable performance on the basketball court. After 7 NBA games, he maintains an impressive average of 25.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. What’s even more surprising is that LeBron James is playing an average of 35.9 minutes per game, ranking among the top 10 players with the most playing time this season.

Previously, Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham had declared intentions to limit LeBron James to an average of 28-30 minutes per game to preserve his physical condition. However, the team’s poor performance without LeBron James forced Ham to take risks with the superstar’s health.

In this analysis, The Sporting News will delve into the significant impact of LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers’ playing style and why it has become a serious concern for the team at the CRYPTO.COM Arena.

Los Angeles Lakers Struggle Without LeBron James

It’s common for a team to perform worse in the absence of its star player, but the Los Angeles Lakers’ performance with and without LeBron James is exceptionally divergent. According to NBA statistics, the Lakers lead opponents by an average of 11.6 points per 100 possessions when LeBron James is on the court. However, when the 39-year-old superstar is on the bench, they trail by an average of 37 points per 100 defensive possessions. This staggering difference of 48.6 points is the worst among NBA teams when missing their key player.

Having Anthony Davis alongside LeBron James makes the Lakers even more formidable. The duo, statistically, leads opponents by an average of 41 points per 100 possessions. However, the Lakers face a major challenge with LeBron James approaching 39 and Anthony Davis frequently dealing with injuries. Neither of them has been able to play more than 56 games in a season in the past 4 years with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Issues Beyond LeBron James

The Lakers face additional challenges with players like D’Angelo Russell struggling with decision-making on offensive plays, and Austin Reaves and Gabe Vincent experiencing a downturn in performance compared to the previous season. While Taurean Prince and Christian Wood continue to play well, their efforts fall short when LeBron James is off the court.

The absence of Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura due to injuries further exacerbates the Lakers’ problems. Both players, crucial from the previous season, have been sidelined. Hachimura’s proficiency in three-point shooting and stable offensive capabilities, along with Vanderbilt’s dynamic play and ability to defend all five positions, are sorely missed.

The Return of Vanderbilt and Hachimura

The imminent return of Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura could provide a significant morale boost for the Los Angeles Lakers. However, until this dynamic duo is back on the court, Coach Darvin Ham must find alternative solutions to support and alleviate the burden on LeBron James. Failing to do so may result in the 39-year-old superstar facing fatigue in the remaining games of the 2023/24 season.