While basketball experts would think it crazy to change starters after just two games, the Lakers’ starting lineup has been a statistical nightmare in the season restart with just six games remaining before the playoffs begin.
While a veteran coach like Frank Vogel is unlikely to make a drastic move, all five Lakers’ starters posted negative net ratings while all five Lakers’ reserves had positive net ratings the first two games of the season restart. While the Lakers won’t make wholesale changes to their starting lineup, it would be foolish for the coaching staff to ignore this red flag and not start considering possible changes in who starts or at least in minutes played.
After all, the clock is ticking and the Lakers only have six more regular season ‘seeding’ games to make changes to get ready for the playoffs. Here are the Lakers’ player net rating for first two games per NBA.com:
The challenge for Frank Vogel and his staff is to create a starting lineup that complements superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which requires more than anything else players who can hit open shots and play defense. From the above stats, we can see the problem with the Lakers’ starting lineups the last two games was offense, not defense. Per NBA.com, Lakers’ starters had a poor 66.7 offensive rating and good 102.2 defensive rating.
The Lakers’ 3-point shooting stats the last two games confirms the problem. As a team, the Lakers’ shot just 27.6% from deep, 29th worst out of 30 teams. Opponents scored 27 more points from deep in the last two games. The Lakers’ poor 3-point shooting allowed the Clippers and the Raptors to clog the middle and keep LeBron James and Anthony Davis from getting to the rim, which was a big factor leading to their subpar performances.
Lakers’ superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a duo average 52.1 points per game on 50.1% from the field but in the last two games were held to just 42.0 points per game and just 38.3% field goal percentage. While it’s easy to write off the outcome as James and Davis having subpar games, the truth is the poor shooting performances of their teammates in the Lakers’ starting lineup was likely the reason for their subpar games.
So what are the options the Lakers’ coaching staff should consider? The obvious solution is surround LeBron and AD with better shooting. Here are Lakers’ players 3-point shooting stats the last two games per NBA.com:
It’s obvious the problem with the starting lineup the last two games has been the shooting of guard Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Combined, the two have made only 6 of 28 threes for a dismal 21.4%. Caldwell-Pope and Green are the Lakers’ best 3-point shooters so it would be foolish to replace them as starters but the team shouldn’t hesitate to put them on a short lease or fewer minutes if they continue to shoot poorly.
The NBA is a copycat league and the problem facing the Lakers is teams are going to increasingly clog the middle and challenge the Lakers to make shots from beyond the arc so 3-point shooting is going to become critical. The Lakers cannot afford to give players who aren’t shooting well extended time to fix the problem. The playoffs are right around the corner, which means Green and Caldwell-Pope need to start hitting their threes right now.
Should Green or KCP continue to miss their threes, Frank Vogel should not hesitate to start or give Dion Waiters more minutes. While he’s only shot 3 of 12 from deep so far, he’s been a 37.7% 3-point shooter the last two years. While the Lakers envisioned Waiters as the playmaker and shot creator for the second unit when LeBron rests, Dion has posted a better two-player net rating with both James and Davis than either Green or Caldwell-Pope.
Finally, the other option the Lakers have should consider if KCP and/or Green don’t start hitting their threes is moving Anthony Davis to the five to replace JaVale McGee and inserting Kyle Kuzma into the starting lineup. Kuz has already earned a role in the Lakers closing rotation and is playing the second most minutes after LeBron. At some point, Kuzma and Waiters are going to become key players in the Lakers championship quest.s0-
Frank Vogel’s been steadfast in keeping the same starting lineup all year but the playoffs are different and the Lakers need to watch Green’s and KCP’s shooting woes closely and adjust sooner rather than later if necessary.
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