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How scouts grade the Lakers before Christmas game against Clippers

Lakers forward LeBron James sets up the offense during a game against the Pacers on Dec. 17, 2019, at Indianapolis.
LeBron James has played his part in leading the Lakers to a 24-6 record heading into the team’s Christmas showdown against the Clippers.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

As the Lakers prepare to play the Clippers on Christmas Day, several NBA scouts offered their grades and assessments of why the Lakers have excelled so far this season.

The scouts believe the Lakers lack depth, which puts them slightly behind the Clippers. The word “slightly” was commonly used by scouts when asked to determine what differentiates the Lakers from the Clippers as the two titans prepare for their Christmas clash at Staples Center.

Because the Lakers have superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a Western Conference-leading 24-6 record, they graded out overall with an A-.

Here’s what the scouts thought about each position group:

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GUARDS: B-

Lakers guard Danny Green battles Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell for a rebound.
Lakers guard Danny Green battles Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell for a rebound during a game on Dec. 1.
(Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

Two scouts gave the backcourt players a C+.

“Danny Green is a great complement for LeBron and AD,” a scout from the Eastern Conference said. “But Avery Bradley has probably lost a step and Alex Caruso is a nice, decent player, but in big games you’re not worried about him. For good or for bad, [Rajon] Rondo changes games.”

Added a scout from the West about the C+ grade, “The reason it’s not higher is because Rondo has missed so many games.”

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Two other scouts had them at a B- because their personnel fit roles, although consistency has been an issue.

“Their guards are doing what they were brought in to do, making open shots, defend the guard position,” another scout from the East said.

Said another scout from the West: “They are not consistent enough. Caruso has the perfect role. They’ve got to find a way to get Danny some open shots. KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] is at his best in transition. Rondo is a floor general.”

FORWARDS: A

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
Lakers stars LeBron James, left, and Anthony Davis celebrate during a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 6.
(Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Not surprisingly, it was A’s across the board for the frontcourt.

“LeBron and AD are just great at what they do and are a hard matchup because you’re talking about a three and a four,” said a scout from the East who gave them an A.

A West scout, though, slightly downgraded them.

“I give them an A- because [Kyle] Kuzma has been inconsistent since he came back,” the scout said. “AD can play inside and out. He’s shooting threes pretty good. Obviously you have LeBron as the point forward and he runs the whole team. They probably have the best two forwards as a combo in the league.”

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Also grading them with an A was another scout from the West, saying of LeBron and Co., “You got to give them an A because of who they are and what they bring to the game.”

Then there was a scout from the East who believes they deserve an A+.

“You are talking about two of the best in the game in LeBron and AD,” the scout said.

CENTERS: B

Lakers center Dwight Howard looks on during a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 1.
Lakers center Dwight Howard looks on during a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 1.
(Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

Although grades varied from B- to an A, the consensus is that JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard are giving the Lakers what they need, particularly rebounding.

“Dwight and JaVale both hit the offensive glass, finish around the basket and defensively both guys are still impactful,” said a scout from the East who gave them a B.

Two scouts from the West had the most concern, particularly with Howard.

“I still wonder if Dwight is going to let them down, but in saying that, he’s been pretty good,” said a scout who gave them a B-. “I think they should play McGee more.”

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Said another West scout who gave them a B: “I think they’ve fallen in love with Dwight and you got to be careful with that because you still wonder if he can be trusted. I think you can get more productivity out of JaVale if you played him more.”

Another scout from the East gave them an A because the veteran duo at “the center position is doing what you brought them in to do, which is having JaVale and Dwight rebound, catch lobs and block shots.”

COACHING: A

Lakers coach Frank Vogel speaks to his players during a win over the New Orleans Pelicans in November.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel speaks to his players during a win over the New Orleans Pelicans in November.
(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

The Lakers’ coaching staff, which was questioned by many before the season, received straight A’s from the scouts. It seems to be a good blend of personalities and skill with coach Frank Vogel and top assistants Lionel Hollins and Jason Kidd

“Lionel is authentic. Having Jason in your locker room gives them a really good basketball mind,” a scout from the East said. “People said Frank doesn’t always challenge guys, but Jason and Lionel will challenge guys, so my sense is they are a really good group that complements each other.”

Scouts pointed out a fast start helped the team, and staff, meld well.

“It’s been pretty smooth so far because they have been winning. But they are on a three-game losing streak and they’ve had no adversity until now,” pointed out a scout from the West.

Another West scout said, “Whatever Vogel can’t handle, I guess that’s where Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins and Phil Handy come in.”

Another scout from the East put it simply.

“They are the best in the West and they have to be given credit for that.”

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