Los Angeles Lakers: Three trends to focus on during preseason

Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers Alex Caruso
Los Angeles Lakers Alex Caruso (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

Alex Caruso

Frank Vogel could name Alex Caruso the Los Angeles Lakers starting shooting guard.

Most people believe that Wesley Matthews will step into the starting lineup in place of recently traded Danny Green, but why? Is it because Matthews and Green are about as similar as two players can be?

Both men pride themselves on exactly two skills—three-point shooting and perimeter defense. Danny Green averaged 4.2 catch and shoot chances per game last season, while Wesley Matthews was right there with him at 3.6 catch and shoot opportunities per contest. Danny Green averaged 0.76 dribbles per touch throughout 2020, and Wesley Matthews also averaged a minuscule 1.17 dribbles per touch.

On the less glamorous side of the ball, Danny Green and Wesley Matthews both ended the season inside the top-20 out of all shooting guards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus.

Yes, Danny Green and Wesley Matthews are identical NBA twins, but Rob Pelinka (and we can assume Frank Vogel) traded Danny Green for Dennis Schroder well before they knew they’d be able to sign Wesley Matthews.

Perhaps, Frank Vogel gave Pelinka the nod to move on from Danny Green because he was confident that Alex Caruso could easily step in and outpace the former Raptor’s production from last season.

Almost all the advanced stats jump off the screen and shout, “Alex Caruso is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.”

Alex Caruso finished sixth among all guards in defensive rating last season (minimum 15 minutes per game. During the playoffs, he managed to hold the murder’s row of guards (Damian Lillard, James Harden, and Jamal Murray) Vogel tasked him with slowing down to 1.3 percent below their normal average.

Alex Caruso is a great defender, but last postseason his outside jumper was incredibly shaky (28%), which could make Vogel hesitant to insert him in the starting unit.

Despite Alex Caruso’s playoff shooting struggles, he has a 36 percent career three-point percentage, and in general, his stroke looks clean. It’s not unusual to see a young player struggle with his shot during his first playoff run. It takes time to get used to the intensity of postseason play.

There’s a good chance Caruso was twisted up a little too tight during the 2020 playoffs, but this season, with a chip in his pocket, he’ll settle back into a nice shooting rhythm.

Keep an eye on Alex Caruso’s outside shooting stroke throughout the preseason. He gained Frank Vogel’s and LeBron James’ trust throughout last year, so if Caruso hits at a high clip, Vogel could easily insert him into the starting lineup to replace Danny Green as the Lakers starting 3-and-D weapon.