While they beat the Clippers in the Battle for LA and clinched top seed in the West versus the Jazz, the NBA restart has been a struggle for the Lakers as LeBron James has looked mortal and their 3-point shooting problematic.
With just five regular season ‘seeding’ games left before the playoffs begin, the time may have come for Frank Vogel to shake up the Lakers’ starting lineup by replacing longtime starter JaVale McGee with Anthony Davis. While Vogel’s been steadfast in not changing his starting lineup all season, the Lakers’ lackluster play in the first three ‘restart’ games has exposed serious issues that could be better addressed now than in the playoffs.
At the top of the list is the poor performance by the Lakers’ starting lineup of Caldwell-Pope, Green, James, Davis, and McGee, who struggled mightily and put the Lakers in deep holes at the start of games and second halves. The combination of Caldwell-Pope’s and Green’s horrid 3-point shooting and McGee’s clogging the lane on offense allowed opponents to suffocate the Lakers’ offense by doubling Davis and packing the paint against James.
With the #1 seed in the West locked up, Frank Vogel should use the remaining five ‘seeding’ games to experiment with a new starting lineup featuring Anthony Davis at the five and possibly Kyle Kuzma at the four.
Here are four reasons why the Lakers should start Anthony Davis at the five:
1. The Lakers’ best lineups have been with Anthony Davis at center.
There’s never been any question the Lakers’ best lineup is one with Anthony Davis at the five. It’s the only lineup with five players who can shoot the three and thus the ideal lineup to create spacing to unleash LeBron and AD. The win against the Jazz last night was a perfect example. After a tight battle the first 30 minutes, the Laker broke the game open midway through the third quarter when they pulled McGee and went with AD at the five.
2. The Lakers’ worst lineups have been with JaVale McGee at center.
The starting lineup of Caldwell-Pope, Green, James, Davis, and McGee played 34 minutes, three times more than any other 5-player lineup in the last three games, and posted a dismal -27 net rating and -21 plus/minus. They were not only outscored to start all three games but also to start the second halves. The problem is JaVale McGee, who has a dreadful -26 net rating and -21 plus/minus for the three games just suffocates the offense.
3. Starting Anthony Davis would enable the Lakers to start Kyle Kuzma.
The season restart has resurrected Kyle Kuzma’s future as a Laker. Kuz has posted a+10.2 net rating and +19 plus/minus for the three games while averaging 13.7 points, 4.0 boards, and 1.3 assists in 28.3 minutes per game. Besides elite defense against Kawhi and Siacom, Kuzma has also been the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter, hitting 9 of 17 threes in the first three games for 52.9%. Replacing McGee with Davis opens the door to start Kuzma.
4. Starting Anthony Davis is the best way to unleash LeBron James.
One of the most troublesome issues in the Lakers’ first three games has been how mortal LeBron James has looked at times, primarily because opposing teams are clogging the lane to turn him into a playmaker rather than scorer. Surrounding him with four shooters has always been the formula to win championships with LeBron James. It’s time for the Lakers to remember this and start Anthony Davis at the five and open up the court for LeBron.
No NBA team has ever faced as challenging a path to the championship as the Orlando bubble. Now is not the time for Frank Vogel to be overly patient or hesitant to make moves to solve obvious issues. It’s time for AD to start.
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