Did Lakers Just Unveil Plan for Deep Rotation, Load Mgmt, and Covid-19?
Maybe it’s just coincidence but could Frank Vogel’s decision to play only 9 players Friday night and 8 players Sunday night be a preview of a brilliant Lakers’ plan to manage a deep roster, load management, and Covid-19?
Friday night, Vogel played a 9-man rotation of Schroder, Matthews, Caruso, Kuzma, Harrell, THT, Cook, Cacok, and Antetokounmpo while holding out James, Davis, KCP, Morris, Gasol, Dudley, and McKinnie due to Covid-19. Sunday night, he played an 8-man rotation of Gasol, Morris, Kuzma, KCP, THT, Harrell, Cook, and Dudley while holding out James, Davis, Schroder, Matthews, Cacok, Antetokounmpo, McKinnie, and Caruso due to injury.
By limiting his rotations to just 8 or 9 players, Vogel was able to give every player an opportunity to get in rhythm and play well with the result that the Lakers won both games without playing LeBron James or Anthony Davis. With two preseason games to go, the Lakers looked like a team ready to start the season while the Clippers looked like a team going nowhere as Ty Lue played 18 players in Friday night’s loss and 17 in Sunday night’s loss.
With Talen Horton-Tucker looking like a potential star, Frank Vogel needs to find a way keep a deep and talented 11-man rotation happy and productive and give each player enough minutes and opportunities to be successful. Keeping rotations to 8 or 9 players ensures everybody gets to play at least 20 to 30 minutes per game so they can develop rhythm and rapport with their teammates. Teams usually play better with 8 or 9-man rotations.
With the early start and compressed season, the Lakers need to give LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and others who played deep into the playoffs days off and be ready to respond to players missing games due to Covid or injury. Deploying a shifting 8 or 9-man matchup rotation based on opponent could be an ingenious way for the Lakers to manage the playing time demands of a deep roster, the need to rest LeBron and AD, and the impact of Covid-19.
The way this would work is relatively simple. Assuming the Lakers decide they have 11 players to whom they want to regularly give 20 to 30 minutes of playing time, they would then rest 2 or 3 of those 11 players every game. Positional matchups and players out due to injury or Covid would obviously be factors on who would sit out. LeBron and AD would likely play against major competitors while one of them might rest against lottery teams.
So how would an 8 to 9-man shifting matchup rotation of 11 players work over the 72-game NBA regular season? How many of the 72 games would various players end up playing versus sitting out during the regular season? The math is simple. For 11 players to share an 8 or 9-man rotation, each player would have to sit out every 5th game, meaning they would play in 80% or 58 and miss 20% or 14 of the 72 regular season games on the schedule.
But every 5th game is just an average. Depending on the player, their age, health, level of play, opponent, matchups, and schedule, Vogel may want specific players to sit out only every 6th game and others every 4th game. The beauty of the template is it allows the coach to fine tune the rotation to each opponent, gives every player regular chances to rest and recuperate, and ensures the players who play have enough minutes to get into rhythm.
The shifting matchup rotations give more than five players the opportunity to start and close games, allow the coach to see which player combinations work best, and help to develop teamwide chemistry, synergy, and culture. They also afford more players chances to play meaningful minutes, keep the team fresh, healthy, and engaged over the long season, and make it easier to adjust should players get injured or end up testing positive for Covid.
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