Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James got injured in the first quarter of their match against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night and is reportedly ‘out indefinitely’ as a result.
Recovery rates vary, but high ankle sprains typically take anywhere from six weeks to three months to mend.
The Lakers’ final regular-season game is in roughly two months, on May 16 and it’s left to be seen how the defending champions cope without their inspirational All-Star player.
LeBron James has been very instrumental to the Lakers’ run so far this season with the team rarely missing the absence of Anthony Davis who also got injured months ago. James has been flexing his basketball-related superpowers giving the Lakers roughly average half-court offensive numbers.
He’s been able to lift the offense in transition and take over completely down the stretch of games. He also has demonstrated that he can sustain a top defense even without its best player.
LeBron has always found a way to provide whatever his team needs but now he is out indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain, and suddenly, the flaws he covered up become glaring.
They’re now down to one functioning NBA ball-handler in Dennis Schroder and until James or Davis returns, the Lakers are vulnerable.
The defending champions have 16 games scheduled over the next month with half of them coming against championship contenders. The Lakers will play the Suns, 76ers, Bucks, Clippers, Heat, Nets, and Jazz twice all in that span.
Also, they would face potentially tough matchups with Boston and Toronto and a two-game set in Dallas following those first 16 games and the Lakers have arguably stumbled into the hardest portion of their schedule without their two best players.
The trade deadline is days away, and the timing of LeBron’s injury is seeming like something of a blessing.
The Lakers aren’t ideally situated to make a deadline deal, though. They have only one tradable first-round pick and it’s in 2027. They have only $1.5 million in space below the hard cap, and given their empty roster spots, they would practically have to match the salary of any player they acquire dollar-for-dollar.
The Lakers are reportedly interested in signing Andre Drummond off of the buyout market.
Oklahoma City’s George Hill and Cleveland’s Cedi Osman, both former teammates of James could also be options for the Lakers.
James may have helped the Lakers build a cushion without Davis, but it’s not an enormous one. They currently have a four games advantage over the San Antonio Spurs, currently seeded No. 7 in the Western Conference.
Spurs themselves are also not a very consistent team and are due a fair bit of regression, but the red-hot Mavericks, presently trailing the Lakers by six games, are not. They are going to need James and Davis to make it back in time for the stretch run as their current lead probably protects them from the play-in round, but slipping that far is hardly inconceivable.
Laker lineups missing James have been outscored by 4.5 points per 100 possessions this season, according to stats, and that includes units featuring Davis. Without the two of them, their offense ranks poorly in terms of efficiency. The Lakers don’t look like they are going to score many points for the next several weeks.