How Lakers Can Play 12-Man Rotation And Give James And Davis ‘Rest’ Days
With the signing of Christian Wood, the Lakers now have what could be the best 12-man rotation in the NBA if they can figure out how to get minutes for everybody and how to keep their older injury-prone superstars healthy.
While the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy has tightened rules about resting stars, the time’s come for the Lakers to embrace load management to keep LeBron James and Anthony Davis healthy and extend their careers.
Right now, the Lakers current roster is so deep and diverse the team has a unique opportunity to give all 12 legitimate rotation players viable minutes while also giving James, Davis, and other players well needed ‘rest’ games.
The Lakers’ problem is they have 12 legitimate rotation players but only enough minutes in any given game to realistically play 10 players. Luckily, having 12 quality rotation players is also an opportunity for the Lakers. Instead of settling for a 10-man rotation and turning 2 players into injury insurance, the Lakers should deploy an innovative 12-man rotation that ‘plays’ a different 10 players and ‘rests’ a different 2 players every game.
Having a 12-man rotation that allows the Lakers to rest 2 players every game while still putting a championship caliber lineup on the court should make the Lakers an even better and deeper team going into the playoffs. Because all their rotation players will have chances to play important minutes and some even to start games, their confidence, experience, and ability to play winning basketball should be dramatically improved.
Opportunity knock and the Lakers have the depth and diversity to answer. Their unorthodox 12-man rotation can both give the Lakers’ 12 rotation player needed minutes and their superstars and starters needed ‘rests.’
Lakers Projected Depth Chart
Here’s the Lakers’ projected depth chart for next season per the Athletic’s Jovan Buha with Russell, Reaves, Hachimura, James, and Davis starting and Vincent, Christie, Prince, Vanderbilt, and Wood as the primary backups:
The above depth chart easily translates into a 10-man rotation comprised of the 5 starters and 5 primary backups at each of the five positions. The big problem with this 10-man rotation is that it leaves out Reddish and Hayes.
Lakers Projected Rotation Minutes
Here are Buha’s projected minutes per game for the Lakers’ 10-man rotation that includes the five starters and primary backups but does not include Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, or the two rookie draft picks:
It’s easy to see from the above chart per player that the optimum Lakers rotation is probably 9 players as 4 minutes in each half for 8 minutes in a game is not enough for for Jarred Vanderbilt to get into any rhythm.
How 12-Man Rotation Would Work
Here is a basic guide as to how the Lakers’ 12-man rotation would work to give all 12 of the team’s legitimate rotation players viable minutes to play while allowing James, Davis, and other players to rest every 7th game.
The Lakers 12-man rotation is just a blueprint or guideline rather than a firm set of inviolable rules Darvin Ham and LeBron James and Anthony Davis have to follow when deciding who plays and rests for each game.
Basically, the Lakers need to narrow the rotation for each game to the 10 players for whom they have minutes by not playing 2 players, who could be players who are actually injured or players who are getting a ‘rest day.’
The only load management limitation is the Lakers cannot rest both James and Davis, their two players classified as ‘stars,’ in the same game or rest either of them in nationally televised or in-season tournament games.
For the Lakers’ 12-man rotation to achieve its goals of giving all 12 rotation players viable minutes while resting superstars, all 12 legitimate rotation players need to participate in and benefit from the ‘rest days’ program.
While the reasons for load managing James and Davis are most important, teams are learning more and more that embracing load management can help keep the entire team healthier with fewer and less severe injuries.
The NBA just came out with new rules and penalties for team’s resting star players during nationally televised games, of which the Laker have 28, or resting two stars, which L.A. has in James and Davis, in the same game.
The NBA will not require players who are older than 35 years old or have severe injury history to play in back-to-back games not nationally televised. Of the Lakers 15 back-to-back games, 11 have nationally televised games.
That means James could rest during the first game and Davis during the second game of 4 or the 15 back-to-backs. Both would have to play in the 11 televised back-to-backs but one star could rest in the non-televised game.
Here are some other numbers to consider. The regular season includes 82 games. Lakers have 28 nationally televised games where they cannot rest either James or Davis, leaving just 54 games where they could rest one star.
By deploying a 12-man rotation, the Lakers are essentially embracing load management and committing to the idea that you can ultimately get more games and minutes from your major players by strategically resting them.
Lakers 12-Man Rotation Is Winner
The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to have their cake and eat it too by building a team that can win at least one more championship before LeBron James retires but still be a title contender after he has gone.
Rob Pelinka and Darvin Ham essentially have the Lakers now perfectly positioned to potentially pull off that seemingly miraculous double win as this Lakers team is clearly the deepest since LeBron signed with L.A.
The key to the Lakers winning their 18th championship is still the health of superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis but the Lakers suddenly have the depth now to give both superstars a dozen rest days during the season.
While a 15% reduction in games played isn’t going to guarantee James and Davis will remain healthy, the Lakers would be dumb not to make whatever moves they can to smartly reduce their superstars’ minutes and workload. That can be done by giving them a dozen rest games and limiting them to under 30 minutes per game. The NBA’s new Player Participation Policy has now essentially legitimized the need for teams to load manage their stars.
Besides giving LeBron and AD smart opportunities to rest during a long regular season, playing a 12-man rotation should give the Lakers a chance to become a better team and earn a higher seed when the playoffs start.
For the Lakers, that could mean the difference between Cam Reddish and Jackson Hayes getting realistic opportunities to show they could be this season’s low risk, high reward players who rebuilt their brand in L.A.
Bottom line, spreading games and minutes between 12 legitimate rotation players would not only help the Lakers load manage their stars and players but also make them a better and stronger team heading into the playoffs.