The Lakers are dominating team play and their most pleasant surprise of the 2023-24 NBA season.

Late-game success has been key for the Lakers this season, thanks in large part to the contributions of Cam Reddish.

Những thương vụ trao đổi của Los Angeles Lakers có thể xảy ra

It’s fair to say the Los Angeles Lakers have slightly underwhelmed to start the 2023-24 NBA regular season.

Injury report appearances from LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and multiple rotation players have posed a legitimate obstacle to finding a rhythm. Effort levels have been occasionally substandard. The Lakers have one victory over a team (Orlando Magic) with a winning record. They have a negative net rating (-2.0) and rank 20th in 3-point percentage.

Fortunately, LeBron and AD have been outstanding, and the Lakers’ have seized on weaker competition. All things considered, their 7-6 record itself can be deemed a pleasant surprise (another positive: they’re dominating In-Season Tournament group play).

Late-game execution has been critical. The Lakers have played the most “clutch-time” minutes — a five-point scoring margin with under five minutes to play — of any team in the NBA. They’re 5-2 in clutch games, despite inconsistent shooting, lineups, and half-court ball movement.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James are the primary reasons for this. James has been the league’s most dangerous offensive player late in games, shooting nearly 70% in crunch-time. (In general, LeBron is floating the Lakers’ outside shooting boat — a surprising, if unsustainable, trend.) AD does, well, “everything” defensively, enabling his teammates to siege on ball-handers.

The creaky, mediocre Los Angeles Lakers should have seen this coming | Los  Angeles Lakers | The Guardian

Beyond the stars, though, no Lakers player has made a bigger impact than Cam Reddish.

Based on preseason performance, few outside the building expected Reddish to open the season above Max Christie on the depth chart. But Christie is 20; his time will come. For now, Ham wanted to give the longer, well-traveled Reddish an opportunity to earn trust and establish confidence. It’s paying dividends.

“It’s going to be defense, 3-and-D,” Ham said about Reddish’s role after a gritty win over the Los Angeles Clippers. “The only thing he needed is consistent consistency. Just a program that’s going to put their arms around him and encourage him to get better, simplify things and he’ll respond in the right way as he did tonight. He’s been awesome since he’s been a Laker.”

A few days later, LeBron passed to Reddish for a potential buzzer-beater. The ball didn’t go into the basket, but the message went into Reddish’s soul.

“Be ready again because there will be many more opportunities, especially from me,” LeBron said about what he told Reddish. “I know I’m going to see two defenders late in games, so just be ready.”

Reddish has since replaced Austin Reaves in the starting lineup and earned a nomination for Western Conference Player of the Week. Over the last five games, he’s averaged 13.8 points in 30.6 minutes, on sizzling .533/.522/.818 shooting splits. He’s attacking both ends with a newfound confidence, verve, and aggression. His instincts (and size) as a cutter and ball-hawk (2.8 steals per game) have been momentum-changers. Reddish is hustling all over the place, checking star wings, and wreaking havoc in backcourts like he’s a terrifying, 6’8 version of Pablo Prigioni or Jose Alvarad0.

“I feel like all of my teammates have done a great job of just pouring into me and telling me how much they believe in me,” said Reddish, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. “I haven’t had an atmosphere like this I don’t think in my entire NBA career.”

More importantly, Reddish has become a closing staple and actualized 3-and-D. The Lakers are 3-1 in clutch-time games Reddish has participated in. He owns the best clutch-time net rating (4.8) on the team.

Who Are the Most Valuable Lakers? Ranking Every 2020-21 Laker Player! | by  LakerTom | Medium

After circling Reddish for years, the Lakers took a flyer on the 23-year-old on a minimum contract following failed stints with the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, and Portland Trail Blazers, believing he (and Christian Wood) can follow in the footsteps of Malik Monk and Dennis Schroder as players who have rebuilt reputations in the Lakers’ program. So far, LeBron, Ham, Davs, and especially Reddish, deserve their flowers for his feel-good success story.

“It started off OK in Atlanta but then he goes to New York, goes to Portland, and again, he burnt us good when I was in Milwaukee,” recalled Ham, referencing Reddish’s pivotal defensive performance in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. “He had a huge impact … made like four 3s and guarded one of our best players Khris Middleton at the time. He’s always stuck with me, and watching him at Duke before that, as well, I just thought, he’s still a very young player with tremendous upside. Just thought we could provide some of the stability and opportunity that he needed.”

Reddish has 22 steals this season. None are more valuable than his mere presence on the Lakers.

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