Avery Bradley
Photo: Daniel Dunn, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley has opted to sit out the remainder of the NBA season. He will not be part of the team as the season resumes in Orlando at the end of July. It has been reported that Bradley’s decision was due to the well-being of his family. Specifically, his 6-year-old son who has had a history of respiratory illness.

The decision is completely understandable, especially when it pertains to the health of his family. Bradley was quoted saying “As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family”. The 29-year-old continued with “And so, at a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk”.

Bradley has been a part of the Lakers’ success to date, averaging 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists, through 49 games. On 44.4% shooting from the field, 36.4% from 3-point land. He’s been an important factor on the defensive end, constantly hounding opponents.

Where does this leave the Lakers from a basketball standpoint? Here are some solutions following Avery Bradley’s decision.

J.R. Smith:

Almost instantly after the Avery Bradley news broke, J.R. Smith’s name was thrown around as being a front runner to fill the vacancy. Smith had a workout with the Lakers back in March and was touted to join the team then. But the Lakers opted to sign Dion Waiters instead.

It looks like the 34-year-old could finally find himself representing the purple and gold. Chasing another title alongside LeBron James. Of whom he won a championship with back in 2016. Standing at 6-foot-6, with a large frame, Smith suits what the Lakers need on the defensive end. He’s capable of heating up from range too, where he’s a 37.4% career shooter. A downside though, he hasn’t played since November 2018, after being frozen out by his previous team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

All-in-all, he could certainly play a roll for the Lakers. He’s more than capable of producing when called upon

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:

The start of the season for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was rough. He was the subject of intense scrutiny as his performances lacked. Although, since the middle of December he’s been extremely productive for the purple and gold. His numbers have ballooned up, with his 3-point percentage sitting at an impressive 39.4%. His averages; 9.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, on 47.2% shooting from the field.

Even though he’s averaging the 2nd-lowest points of his career to date. Caldwell-Pope is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. His shooting numbers are at a career-high and his defensive contributions have been huge for the Lakers’ success this season.

He’s not as fierce as Avery Bradley on the defensive end, but he can certainly hold his own. He’s definitely regarded as an above-average defender. Expect KCP to be inserted into the started line-up amid Bradley’s absence. His main purpose on the defensive end will be to chase opposing guards, putting in the leg work. On the offensive end, it will be to spread the floor with LeBron James taking over point guard duties. He’ll be waiting in the wings, knocking down shots when required. “3-and-D”.

Alex Caruso:

Many fans have been pleading for Alex Caruso’s minutes to be increased for quite some time now. Well, here’s the opportunity. Caruso has been a flamethrower off-the-bench at times this season. With his highlight-worthy dunks energising the Lakers. Additionally, he’s a high IQ player that puts his body on the line. Whether this be through taking charges or fighting for lose balls. Causing opponent errors due to persistent hassling and cutting out the passing lane are other major fortes of Caruso. Defensively he’s an important piece of the Lakers’ championship-contending roster.

Caruso’s averages for the season sit at 5.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1 steal. But he is far more valuable to the team than these statistics suggest. He is 4th-highest on the roster in plus/minus, with a rating of 3.9 on the season. The players ahead of him; LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Danny Green.

When Caruso is on the court, the Lakers produce 114 points per 100 possessions. This is only +1.2 from when he’s not on the court. However, it shows that when Caruso enters the game, the offensive production of the Lakers not only maintains but actually increases ever-so-slightly. With the effective field goal conversion rate of the team sitting at 55.2%. Defensively, with Caruso’s contributions, the team lock-up to concede just 103.8 points per 100 possessions. That’s good for a 95th percentile. Statistics are via Cleaning the Glass.

He’s a vital component to the Lakers off the bench. As well, it’s no secret that Caruso shines alongside LeBron James, as both have natural chemistry. Now’s the time to see more of the duo, via extending Caruso’s minutes.