Los Angeles Lakers’ closing unit
- PG: Dennis Schröder
- SG: Wesley Matthews
- SF: Kyle Kuzma
- PF: LeBron James
- C: Anthony Davis
Last season Frank Vogel was reasonably loose with his closing unit rotation. This season, not so much.
The Lakers have played in four games with clutch time minutes (the last five minutes and the point difference is five points or less), and Schröder, Matthews, Kuzma, James, and Davis have played the lion’s share of those minutes.
- Schröder: 13 minutes
- Matthews: 10 minutes
- Kuzma: 10 minutes
- James: 13 minutes
- Davis: 13 minutes
It seems like Dennis Schröder will be a mainstay in the Lakers 2021 closing unit, but why?
Schröder’s played with a lot of energy this season, but he hasn’t been particularly good. He’s 13th on the Lakers in defensive rating (108), and he’s last on the squad in value over replacement player (-0.1). Schröder is shooting 35 percent from deep and a meager 44 percent overall.
Last season, the Lakers dominated the end of the fourth quarter by surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis with three solid 3-and-D players. Oddly, Frank Vogel hasn’t stuck with the same strategy.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is third in the NBA in offensive rating (minimum 15 minutes per game) at an absurd 126.2. KCP’s missed a couple of contests with a mild ankle sprain, but he wasn’t closing games before he went down with an injury. Caldwell-Pope’s the perfect running-mate next to LeBron and AD. He plays solid defense against opposing point guards, and he comes up with big shots in the clutch.
Alex Caruso’s missed four games because of coronavirus protocols, but he also has a case to close most games. Caruso’s the Lakers best perimeter defender, and he’s hitting half of his three-point attempts with a stroke that looks much cleaner this season versus last.
Defense wins championships, and right now, Frank Vogel is consistently closing games with the Lakers’ two worst perimeter defenders in Dennis Schröder and an aging Wesley Matthews.
We must wait and see what Frank Vogel does once KCP and Caruso come back. But neither player was getting the minutes they deserved based on their stellar play during the season’s opening games. KCP is sixth on the Lakers at 23.8 MPG, and Caruso is 11th at 13.7 MPG.
If Frank Vogel keeps doggedly closing with Schröder and Matthews, it will cause problems as the season progresses.