How Can the Los Angeles Lakers Win While Anthony Davis Is Not Playing?

With superstar Anthony Davis tentatively sidelined for at least 2 to 3 weeks, the big question facing the Los Angeles Lakers is can they win without AD? The answer could depend upon whom coach Frank Vogel decides to play.

The Lakers need to embrace “Next Man Up’ and come out and ready to play aggressively and with confidence. When they do that and are having fun, flying around on defense and running on offense, they can beat anybody. Winning games without Anthony Davis will require the Lakers to dominate the 36 minutes during the game LeBron James plays and find a way to hold court and stay even during the 12 minutes per game he will need to rest.

The good news is the Lakers have one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the NBA. While they’ve struggled with rim protection and 3-point shooting, they still have the top rated defense in the league to rely upon. While the Lakers will surely miss Anthony Davis over the next 11 games, they’ve won 4 of the 5 games he’s already missed and 3 of their 5 top ranked lineups and 6 of the 11 that had positive net ratings were without AD.

Coach Vogel needs to tap into the Lakers’ lineups with the best records and play the combinations that have been the key to the team having fun and winning all season long. The time for experimenting must now be over.

So let’s first take a look at the stats for the successful 5-player lineups with LeBron James without Anthony Davis that Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel should be prioritizing for the next 11 games based on past performance:

An analysis of these lineups shows James appears 6 times, Harrell 4 times, Morris 4 times, Caruso 3 times, Matthews 3 times, Kuzma 3 times, Schroder 2 times, Gasol 2 times, Horton-Tucker 2 times, and Caldwell-Pope 1 time. The good news is the number of times each player shows up matches well with what the eye test and recent performance tells us. The exception is Markieff Morris whose positional importance is clearly higher without AD.

Frank Vogel is not likely to make major changes to the starting lineup but Gasol, Morris, James, Matthews, and Schroder has been the best non-AD Lakers’ lineup and Matthews is clearly playing better than KCP right now. Considering how well Kuzma has been shooting, rebounding, and defending, Gasol, Kuzma, James, Matthews, and Schroder would be a starting lineup with a good chance to get the Lakers off to good starts and winning ways.

Vogel said before Anthony Davis’ injury that he wasn’t going to change the starting lineup ‘anytime soon.’ AD’s injury changes everything. Kuzma is the logical starter to replace Davis and Matthews needs to take over for KCP.

Unfortunately, the Lakers had no positive lineups without one of James or Davis on the court, which means Frank Vogel’s big challenge will be what happens when James, who’s already playing too many minutes, rests.

Caruso, Harrell, Horton-Tucker, Morris, and Caldwell-Pope will be the Lakers’ reserves, even though they don’t make up a viable 5-player lineup. Instead, Vogel is going to have to combine them with two or three starters. We’ve already seen the trio of Caruso, Harrell, and Horton-Tucker have had great success. Frankly, I could even see Frank going with an 8-man rotation with Morris and Caldwell-Pope playing minimal minutes as needed.

Defensively, the Lakers are going to have to go small at this point, which means playing an aggressive trapping, hedging, and doubling style of defense designed to create chaos and turnovers to ignite fast breaks on offense. Transition is going to be critical as the last thing the Lakers want is to play half court basketball. They need to push the ball relentlessly, take wide open threes in transition, and not hesitate to attack the paint or crash the boards.

Hopefully, the injury to Anthony Davis will motivate and empower the team to come out focused and ready to play. That could be the silver lining that gets the team back to playing the kind of Lakers’ basketball we all love.

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Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.