The infamous Anthony Davis trade that took place earlier this year cleaned the Los Angeles Lakers roster out of almost all their players, leaving only a core of Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James, and Davis. So going into free agency everyone was expecting some big moves to come from the Lakers. In particular, it was expected that Kawhi Leonard would be signing with them, which would have ascended them to almost a lock for the NBA title in 2020. However, with Leonard’s move to the rival Los Angeles Clippers rather late in free agency, the Lakers were left with a lot of scraps and leftovers to fill out their roster. It is difficult to immediately tell who would be in the Los Angeles Lakers’ best line-up.
Evaluating the Los Angeles Lakers Best Line-Up
Current Roster Construction
The Los Angeles Lakers, as currently constructed, have a pretty top-heavy lineup.
SF: LeBron James, Troy Daniels
PF: Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Jared Dudley
Conventional Starting Five
Looking at that depth chart, the Lakers could start with the line-up of Rondo, Green, James, Davis, and Cousins. This isn’t the Lakers’ best line-up but it is a predictable starting five to throw out there. This line-up makes the most sense in a conventional sense from a position standpoint. However, on the court, there are glaring weaknesses.
Cousins is a below-average defender in the paint and can’t hope to guard anyone on the perimeter. James plays defense rarely these days so he’ll get the easiest defensive assignment allowing him to expend more energy on the offensive end. Rondo is a traditional point guard, however, while playing next to James he won’t be doing the ball-handling duties as much as he would like. He is much less effective off the ball, although he has been improving in that area over the last few years.
Getting out and Running
Lakers head coach, Frank Vogel, may go with that line-up to start games, however, it is the situational line-ups that he has at his disposal which are much more interesting. An uptempo lineup could consist of Cook, Green, James, Kuzma, and Davis. These guys can all get up and down the floor quickly and they can all shoot the three-ball efficiently. This would be a scary line-up for opposing teams to face. Kuzma and James are defensive liabilities but these weak defenders are all over this roster so it’s hard to find a line-up without a couple in.
Lock Down Defense
Elite Western Conference Guards
When talking about defense though, their best option against teams like the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Houston Rockets would be running out a good defensive backcourt. With dynamic duos like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, or Russell Westbrook and James Harden it is crucial to be able to defend the backcourt. These guys would have little trouble breaking down the defense in pick and rolls and off-ball actions.
An Unorthodox Solution
However, a line-up which Vogel should have in his back pocket at all times is Green, Bradley, James, Dudley, and Davis. This line-up is full top to bottom of players who can defend. All of these guys except James are elite defenders consistently and even he can lock down anyone on the planet if he really wants to. Green and Bradley will lock up the guards, and Jared Dudley is a very versatile defender. He can guard multiple positions on the perimeter and inside the paint. Davis is obviously the primary shot blocker and pick-and-roll container, which he does at an elite level. James will take an easy defensive assignment. That will allow him to use his sky-high basketball IQ to employ help defense wherever it is needed on the floor.
Offensively, the Lakers are without a true point guard. However, they can afford that luxury when James is on the court as he will be running the offense most of the time. Dudley is a high energy guy who can inspire the team with confidence and leadership. Green, Bradley, and Dudley can space the floor and allow James and Davis to go to work in pick and roll situations or isolations. Davis’ ability to pick and pop opens up opportunities for the pick-and-roll. He can pop to the three-point line or be a lob threat at the rim. He can also operate out of the short-roll if the defense double-teams James as the ball handler. Because of the offensive and defensive possibilities, the Lakers’ best line-up going into the 2019-20 season, could be this one.
The Los Angeles Lakers ‘Death Line-Up’
The last line-up to focus on is one which is sure to come to be known as the Lakers’ very own ‘Death line-up’. It would be five guys who could end the game to give the Lakers a ridiculous amount of scoring punch. They would be Green, James, Kuzma, Davis, and Cousins. This is quite simply just putting the Lakers’ five best players all on the floor at the same time. There are a million problems defensively. But at least on the offensive end, the opposing defense could not help off of anybody there. They can all shoot, they can all make plays (except Green) and they can score off the bounce (except Green, once again). Four of them can even score efficiently down in the post.
This certainly isn’t the Los Angeles Lakers’ best line-up. It’s actually a Hail Mary coaching move which Vogel should only use to get the Lakers out of a slump or to try to erase a big deficit. This line-up does not work defensively at all, but it would be very fun just to see all those guys out there together on the court.
The Lakers are looking to win the title this season with a very top-heavy roster. However, coach Vogel is a great coach and should relish the opportunity to try out some different line-ups. Some debate is sure to happen regarding which starting five is their best going forward.
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