Los Angeles Lakers: 3 trends to watch after 3 games

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - JULY 30: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with head coach Frank Vogel after defeating the LA Clippers after the game at The Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on July 30, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - JULY 30: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with head coach Frank Vogel after defeating the LA Clippers after the game at The Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on July 30, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Ashley Landis – Pool/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Ashley Landis – Pool/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers /

3. Smaller Role for Big Men

Before the season was suspended, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard provided a tower of strength near the basket. Together, they provided an excellent one-two punch at center, averaging nearly 36 minutes a game while contributing over 14 points and 13 rebounds plus 1.7 blocks per game.

But since the season resumed, their roles have decreased. In the three games in Orlando, they have played 10 fewer minutes and together scored about 8 points and 9 rebounds while blocking a total of just 3 shots between them.

The remaining time at the 5 has been absorbed by Davis, a not too surprising development. During the season Vogel wanted to protect AD from too much pounding down low. But most assumed that his minutes at center would increase in the postseason.

It was also thought that additional minutes at power forward would be given to Morris, who can contribute not only defense and rebounding but also has the ability to score. But he reported late to the abbreviated training camp and has appeared in only two of the three games for a total of 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, more court time is being given in these early games to players like Kuzma, who’s minutes have increased modestly by about 4 minutes a game, and Caruso, who’s up about 6 minutes. Also, Waiters is being given the opportunity to rev up all his cylinders. In the next five games, expect Smith to get more minutes to work himself into NBA game shape.

Is a reduced role for the McGee-Howard combo merely a short-term aberration? Or is this a hint of what Vogel has planned for the postseason? It’s too soon to tell for sure, but at least in part the coach is experimenting with different player combinations while managing minutes of some of the older guys.

We can expect that Vogel will conduct more on-court testing during the remaining 5 games. Once the playoffs begin, he will likely allocate minutes based on matchups, game situations and on how well any individual player is faring in that particular game.

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The Los Angeles Lakers do not need to reach peak performance yet. They can use the seeding games intelligently to reverse some negative trends and hopefully be ready when the postseason arrives.