Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel will have plenty of options at his disposal going into Tuesday night’s game.
Assuming nothing changes prior to then, tomorrow will officially mark the first time the 2020-21 Los Angeles Lakers will be at full strength.
While preseason games ultimately carry no meaning, the Lakers typically had someone sidelined during that four-game span. For example, head coach Frank Vogel opted to keep stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis out of the first two games strictly for load management reasons, among others.
However, load management was not the only factor that kept players out here in the early goings. Fan-favorite Alex Caruso missed a couple of games on account of a strained hip flexor that he endured in the preseason opener.
The most recent injury, though, came this past Wednesday when guard Dennis Schröder sustained an ankle sprain. As a result, he ended up missing the final game of the preseason.
In spite of that latest setback, the Lakers do not have anyone on the shelf at the moment. According to a recent report from Christian Rivas of Silver Screen & Roll, Vogel had a full roster on hand during yesterday’s practice.
Consequently, the Lakers will have an excellent advantage headed into their season opener against the locker room rival Clippers. That advantage will be the insane amount of depth they have.
Needless to say, the Lakers’ depth was one of the primary reasons they won the NBA title a little over two months ago. The championship roster was especially stacked with regard to its size in having had a trio of seven-footers.
Granted the 2020-21 roster may be a little more diminutive as far as the center position, Rob Pelinka did not have a lazy offseason by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, one could argue this Lakers team is every bit as good as last year’s, at least from an on-paper standpoint.
On the other hand, it does not require a genius to figure out that this specific squad has not been too heavily battled tested. As was stated earlier, the Lakers were never quite at full strength in any of their preseason games. Moreover, it is worth noting just how unique this offseason was in terms of it being the shortest one in American sports history.
As for the latter remark, though, every team is in the same boat as Los Angeles. Therefore, it is safe to say no one is going to feel bad for them or let up in any way, shape, or form.
Although factors like the condensed offseason are not ideal, Frank Vogel has a good problem going into tomorrow night’s matchup given the variety of options at his fingertips. Be that as may, Vogel recently commented that he is not willing to disclose his starting five until tomorrow (per transcription from Rivas).
"“We’re gonna hold the starting lineup and reveal it on Tuesday night before the game,” Vogel said."
Per Rivas’ article, there is no denying that LeBron and AD are going to be penciled in. Let’s just get that one knocked out of the way. Case closed.
Notwithstanding those two being easy picks, the remainder of the lineup could go in multiple directions.
For instance, one could make the case that either of the previously mentioned Schröder and Caruso deserve to be in the starting unit. Schröder’s insertion would give the starting five a ton of offensive firepower, whereas Caruso’s presence would factor in more so on the defensive side of the ball.
Conversely, one could certainly contend that the newly acquired Wesley Matthews deserves a spot. Matthews has proven throughout his career that he is an efficient shooter from long range, whilst being a capable defender.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would be a sensible choice on Vogel’s part as well. Akin to Matthews, KCP is a three-and-D type player, with the latter arguably being the team’s third-best player in the bubble.
With respect to the center position, Marc Gasol would be the most logical choice. The team is thinner at this position than they were last year and sliding in Gasol at the five would allow AD to play at his desired position. Gasol is an excellent playmaker for his size, which would take a sliver of the burden away from James.
Albeit Gasol is a likely fit, Vogel could end up surprising us all. Incorporating a guy like Markieff Morris into the starting five would help space the floor for Los Angeles. Furthermore, while Morris is not nearly as big as the younger Gasol brother, he is versatile enough to where he can guard multiple positions if the Lakers choose to go small.
While the options are plentiful as for the starters, Vogel will have a lot of pieces on the bench as well. A couple of the above-mentioned players could easily fulfill either role, which will give the Lakers a distinct advantage depending on the opponent and/or situation.
Perhaps the player that everyone’s eyes are locked on is youngster Talen Horton-Tucker. He played so well in the preseason to where it hard to imagine Vogel not finding minutes for him. The sky is the limit for him, and it is wonderful knowing the Lakers will have him on top of everyone else already mentioned.
One can only hope this team fosters the same kind of team mentality last year’s group did. The togetherness of the 2019-20 team was special, and never was a story produced about there being locker room drama.
If the team’s chemistry can end up matching the amount of talent they have, the Lakers will be a tough team to beat this season. It is only a matter of time before fans will get the chance to watch the world champions attempt to repeat as champions.