LeBron at Point Changes Everything!
How the Lakers’ decision to start LeBron James at point guard dramatically changes their offensive and defensive rotations
Critics say the decision to start LeBron James at point guard is meaningless because he already initiates most of the offense as the small forward but that ignores how the move changes the Lakers’ options on offense and defense.
The NBA today is about creating matchups that force other teams to change their lineups from what they want to do to matchup to what you want to do. That’s the strategy that’s been behind the rise of small ball in the league but the Lakers are looking to change that dynamic by rolling out a big lineup of skilled players who can play the modern analytics driven game while also physically bullying and forcing opponents to bench their small ball lineups.
Modern basketball says whom you defend determines the position you play. But starting LeBron James and Danny Green as their guards, the Lakers will force teams to matchup to our strengths rather than play to their strengths. Right now, the Lakers’ strengths are their front court, not their back court. There’s no NBA front court that can handle the superstar duo of Anthony Davis at power forward and a healthy, hungry DeMarcus Cousins at center.
Moving LeBron James from small forward to point guard creates a similar matchup nightmare for Lakers’ opponents in the backcourt. There just aren’t teams with a pair of guards that can handle LeBron James and Danny Green. The Lakers are going to zig while everybody else is zagging and go all in on rolling out a big lineup that’s going to expose how vulnerable NBA teams have become in this modern era heavily dominated by small ball schemes.
Starting and closing games with LeBron James, Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins is going to create a lineup opponents just don’t have the size to defend. Instead of ‘small ball,’ the Lakers are going to create a ‘big ball’ version of the Death Lineup, an oversized lineup of five big skilled players who can do everything, including shooting from deep, controlling the boards, protecting the rim, and making plays for teammates.
This won’t be your father’s or grandfather’s traditional big team that plays inside-out. It will be a modern outside-in team that embraces analytics and thrives on wide-open threes, dunks and layups, and never-ending trips to the free throw line. It will boast five willing and able three-point shooters, three elite playmakers, two proven rim protectors, and two lock-down defenders. The Lakers are going to force opponents to abandon their small ball lineups.
The thing about matchups is they work both ways and the Lakers’ ‘big ball’ lineup could be especially susceptible defensively against teams with a pair of elite guards like the Warriors, Blazers, or Rockets. That’s why the Lakers may need to add a great defensive wing like Andre Iguodala to make their ‘big ball’ lineup work. In the end, it comes down to will and winning the matchup war. The Lakers obviously believe their ‘big ball’ lineup will force teams to adjust.
Will starting LeBron James at the point and going big prove to be the answer for the Lakers? Starting and closing games with LeBron James, Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins allows them to put their five best players on the floor. Adding Iguodala and moving Kuzma to sixth man would certainly help the ‘big ball’ strategy respond defensively but the Lakers will likely still commit to trying to force their will on their opponents.
Starting LeBron James at point guard is certainly going to be a fascinating experiment. Hopefully, the Lakers will give it a better opportunity to succeed than they gave their failed plans to start LeBron James at center last season.