3 Players Who Still Have to Step Up for Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have outperformed low expectations in the early stages of the 2016-17 season, but there's still plenty of room for improvement, especially for specific players.

Part of head coach Luke Walton's methodology is spreading minutes liberally; This has helped to keep legs fresh but has also given fair opportunities to most of the roster. It is also a good way to identify those who are excelling or can do much better.

Walton recently spoke with USA Today's Sam Amick about the measured ways in which he's evaluating the team: "We're all about what is in front of us. We're taking the season, breaking it down to five-game blocks, seeing where improvement is happening, seeing where we're not improving, trying to play to a certain standard, and that's it for now."

With 11 games under their belts, the Lakers have just passed the second block. And indeed, a pattern is beginning to emerge: There are certain players who need to step it up in order for the team to stay in the Western Conference playoff hunt as the schedule gets tougher. 


Luol Deng

Luol Deng has a long and well-deserved reputation for veteran leadership and on-court versatility. But either his actual basketball skills are in decline, or he just hasn't hit his stride yet.

The 31-year-old has started every game so far this season, but some key stats are way down. Deng is playing 24.3 minutes per game, which is the fewest of his career (though that's by Walton's design), and scoring 6.3 points—less than half his career average. His field-goal percentage has dropped precipitously, and his trips to the charity stripe are barely registering a heartbeat.

This is not the kind of productivity you want from a guy with a four-year, $72 million contract.

On the other hand, Deng is L.A.'s second-best r...

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