Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is going to have to figure out his new starting lineup.
Coach Frank Vogel will lead a new, deeper Los Angeles Lakers squad of riches this season. With 10 first-rate players on the roster, he will be able to choose which players he prefers on the court together from many different options.
The goal of any coach is to strike a balance on both sides of the ball. It’s important to always have scorers on the floor, although that was sometimes a problem for the Lakers last season.
The starting five isn’t always a team’s five best players. Many teams would rather bring one or even two of their top guys off the bench. With that in mind, who will Vogel decide to be his starting five this coming season?
The best guess right now is that the starters will be three players who started every game of the postseason, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope along with two newly acquired veterans, Wes Matthews Jr and Marc Gasol.
Some fans will ask “What about Dennis Schroder? Shouldn’t he be the starting point guard?”
Although it’s certainly possible that Vogel will start Schroder, here’s why the lineup proposed above is more likely:
1. It would be a similar approach to what worked so well last season. That was the first time LeBron was officially designated the starting point guard (although he’s essentially always played point guard even if he didn’t dribble the ball up the court).
2. With this starting lineup, the team’s early offense would naturally focus on LeBron and AD. All three teammates, KCP, Matthews and Gasol, are fully capable of nailing open 3’s. Opposing teams will be hard-pressed to slow those Lakers down.
3. On the other side of the ball, the team would have two of its best perimeter defenders, KCP and Matthews, on the court against presumably the opponents’ best wings. In addition, Gasol, who is still an excellent post defender, would check the opposing center.
4. Schroder would then enter the game late in the first period, subbing in for James, and would play major minutes. This keeps him in the role of the sixth man where he has excelled in four of the last six seasons. Instead of having to set up the team’s two stars at the beginning of games, once he checks in he can concentrate on utilizing his own considerable offensive skills.
5. The energy that Schroder, Alex Caruso and Montrezl Harrell will bring together off the bench along with Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris can tilt games even more in the Lakers favor. That fivesome would start for several franchises! In particular, the pick and roll combination of Schroder and Harrell may prove to be unstoppable.
6. The proposed use of the 10-player rotation would provide a balanced offense throughout the entire game. It will also allow LeBron (and to a lesser extent Davis) to play fewer minutes, preventing some of the natural wear and tear that could be a result of this condensed new season.
Other fans will ask why Harrell shouldn’t start. There are several reasons why Gasol is a better choice. First of all, Marc’s outside shooting ability will pull his opposing big man away from the hoop, allowing both James and Davis to take full advantage of the unclogged paint.
Gasol is also one of the best passing big men in league history, which will add an extra dimension to the Lakers scoring attack. LeBron will love playing with someone who moves the ball and has as high a basketball IQ as Gasol does.
Finally, Gasol is a defensive rock against opposing post-up bigs. He is a master at positioning himself correctly. However, against certain small-ball centers, Vogel might start Harrell or Morris. But, like Schroder, Harrell is accustomed to coming off the bench and has excelled at it.
The Lakers even have talent waiting in the wings for court time in their 11th and 12th men. Talen Horton-Tucker showed in the playoff series against Houston that he’s ready to contribute now even though he just turned 20 years old. He is already an accomplished defender who uses his incredible wingspan well. And his offensive game is just starting to come together.
Alfonzo McKinney, who the Lakers acquired in the McGee trade, is also an excellent wing defender. The 6-7 small forward was a rotation player on the 2019 NBA finalist Warrior team. Like THT, he might have to wait for inevitable injuries before he gets playing time.
Of course, Vogel will mix and match players and experiment with various lineups throughout the season to see which are the most productive on both sides of the ball. And he won’t substitute one entire unit for another, so there will be considerable player overlap.
Do you agree or disagree?