With Los Angeles Lakers sitting at 8-7 on Nov. 5, Carmelo Anthony said this:

“I’m not trying to evaluate our season within the first 20 games. After the first 20 games, we can start.”

Coming off a “disjointed” 2-3 five-game road trip (in Frank Vogel’s words), the Lakers sit at 10-10 and, despite Melo’s bench-mark, remain impossible to truly evaluate, for a host of reasons. So, instead of jumping to any conclusions, here are 20 thoughts about the Lakers after 20 games.

1) Injuries over everything

Trevor Ariza missed the second day of camp with “minor” ankle soreness, which turned out to require surgery. He’s still a “ways away.” As is Kendrick Nunn, whose ankle sprain turned into a knee bruise.

LeBron missed 10 games due to two separate injuries. Anthony Davis has been listed on the injury report for five different ailments.

Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, and Wayne Ellington have dealt with multiple-week issues. Will we ever see this team at full strength?

2) There’s no identity

With so many players in and out of the lineup, the Lakers have been unable to discover an identity. Their pace, rotations, wing play, shooting, and effort are painfully unreliable. Russell Westbrook offers a different experience each quarter.

Growing pains and learning curves are natural. But that’s the risk you take when you bring so few players back.

“We haven’t really been able to see what the vision of this roster is going to look like,” Vogel said on Friday.

3) Concerns about LeBron?

Coming off his suspension, LeBron got his swagger back in a throwback takeover in Indiana, featuring epic clutch buckets, booting fans, playing point-center, and Big Balls and The Silencer celebrations.

The first month of James’ 19th season has been a mixed bag. Early on, he was flying around and dialed in on defense, even if he was settling for more long jumpers than ever. His numbers (24.6/5.0/6.1) are relatively modest.

He missed eight games with an abdominal strain, just when he and Westbrook were starting to find a groove.

The Pacers’ performance was a refreshing sight, though LeBron again struggled to finish around the rim — a legit cause for concern.

Even the LeBron-at-5 lineup, which has killed in a small sample size, can only be deployed occasionally due to the burden it puts on James.

“It’s something we consider,” Vogel said. “You have to measure what that does for his workload. Whether that’s something that we just want to use in small doses when needed or if it’s going to become part of us on a regular basis. I think everything’s on the table with this year’s team.”

All of these are stark reminders of the risks of depending on a 37-year old.


4) AD’s Grade: A-

The Lakers need LeBron at full strength to contend, but they need Davis to be their best player in order to reach their ceiling  — and for an 18th banner to do the same. For the most part, AD has met their expectations.

The bad: Health scares, three-point shooting (18.9%), and settling for too many early long twos. His effort can wain a bit.

The good: Davis is putting up 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and leading the Lakers in VORP and Win Shares.

5) Russ’ Grade: C+

Westbrook has been predictably unpredictable: alternatively brilliant, confounding, electric, and detrimental. He’s delivered in crunch time and overseen blown chances.

He’s shown glimpses of jelling with LeBron and Davis, though the three have only played 140 minutes together (-2.2 net rating).

Westbrook is averaging 20/8.5/8.6 on .431/.303/697 splits. The Lakers are 6.1 points per 100 possession better with him off the floor.

After laughing off his turnovers in the preseason, Westbrook is leading the league in giveaways. He hasn’t been able to consistently get the offense in a rhythm, and his defensive struggles are infectious.