1. Can the Los Angeles Lakers win minutes without Lebron James or Anthony Davis on the court?
In his post-game press conference after the season opener, Davis opened up about the challenges of starting a season after a historically short layoff.
“I can’t believe we just played a basketball game. It’s only been a couple of months,” Davis said.
Coming off of a 71-day offseason, not to mention for a season jampacked with games and limited rest, Vogel might be interested in giving their two franchise cornerstones more rest.
To do so, the Lakers must be able to sustain in minutes without James or Davis on the court.
In the 19-20 season, such minutes were rare. Throughout the season, Vogel meticulously staggered James and Anthony Davis’ minutes, ensuring that at least one was on the court for most possessions.
And for good reason. In the few games where the Lakers sported groups without either of their superstars, they sputtered, registering minus-4.3 points per 100 possessions per Cleaning the Glass.
Without James or Davis, expect Vogel to construct lineups around Schröder and Harrell pick-and-rolls.
But will Vogel feel comfortable trotting out lineups built around their two new signees? The early signs suggest it might take time for Schröder and Harrell to develop the requisite chemistry to elevate each other’s games. To become a lethal pick-and-roll duo, each player must internalize each other’s tendencies. Both partners must intuit how the other wants to attack the defense.
In limited preseason and regular-season minutes, their pick-and-rolls have looked static and mechanical. Sometimes Schröder’s passes have been a beat too late. At other times, he committed turnovers forcing passes into nonexistent windows, as if he felt an obligatory duty to try the pass to Harrell like a new hire overly keen to appease his coworker.
It looked as if they had yet to establish a good feel for when Harrell will slip instead of setting the pick, forcing the Lakers to move on to other actions and ending the dance before it even had a chance to start.
There is an easy and plausible excuse to give for their stagnancy — time. The duo only had a truncated preseason and two preseason games to develop that understanding (Schröder missed the other two preseason games).
However, both players are natural scorers by design and playmakers second. Perhaps the Schröder-Harrell pick-and-rolls will always sound better in theory than it looks on the court. As the games come thick and fast, keep tabs on how comfortable Vogel is in doling out minutes to Schröder and Harrell as primary initiators of the team’s offense.