The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a season with one of the biggest turnarounds in all the NBA. Last season, the Lakers started the season 2-10, tied for the worst record in the Western Conference. However, L.A. managed to finish 43-39, placing them in the Play-In tournament. While this was impressive, they took it even further. After winning their game to advance, the Lakers dismantled the 2-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in 6 games. Next, they defeated the Golden State Warriors in 6 games to advance to the Conference Finals. From such a slow start, the Lakers almost made the Finals. If they can keep the momentum from last season, they expect to be back there again with a chance to win it all. But which lineup gives the Los Angeles Lakers the best chance to win, assuming they do make another postseason run?
The Best Lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers to Win it All
Matching up against the best
In order for the Lakers to have championship aspirations, they’re most likely going to have to get past the Denver Nuggets. The reigning champions should be as formidable as they were last season. With this being said, Lakers Head Coach Darvin Ham has to adapt. While playing smaller lineups may work for most teams, Denver’s size is too much. In essence, Darvin Ham must go to a bigger lineup. LeBron James cannot play the power forward position, and Anthony Davis needs to be relieved of playing Center.
The Nuggets have three starters that are 6’8″ and above. The Lakers have only James and Davis at this height. The Lakers have size on the bench. Christian Wood, Rui Hachimura, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish, and Jarred Vanderbilt can all play well. One of these forwards or centers needs to be starting. The Lakers need to alleviate the pressure put on Anthony Davis, and allow LeBron to slide to his actual position of small forward. Furthermore, some of the aforementioned players can be useful on offense to take pressure off LeBron and Anthony Davis.
If Darvin Ham can utilize the size of his team against the Denver Nuggets, they have a chance. On opening night, it was painfully clear that the team did better when a larger unit was on the floor. If Austin Reaves or Taurean Prince comes off the bench, it may benefit this talented team.
Which piece(s) off the bench would help create the best lineup for the Lakers?
In truth, the Lakers need to start Christian Wood and/or Jarred Vanderbilt. The best lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers (for postseason success) should include at least one of these two. Wood provides height, and allows Anthony Davis to play inside or out. Christian Wood can also shoot perimeter shots at a premium, and defensively he provides size to disrupt the paint. With Wood and Davis on the floors, teams will have to figure out how to guard them both. In addition, this gives LeBron the ability to go back to the small forward, which he can excel in. LeBron can put his head down, drive to the rim, and kick it out to either of those options. This puts stress on other teams (including Denver) because it forces them to rebound, and clogs up the paint more for Denver on offense.
Jarred Vanderbilt should also be considered to start. Last postseason, Vanderbilt did an amazing job defending Stephen Curry and Ja Morant. While he didn’t have a great series against Denver, his defense can be used to stay close to Jamal Murray. His on the ball defense is among the best on the team. While his offensive skills are limited, his role wouldn’t be to score at a high clip, but to hustle, defend, and rebound. Any offense he provides is a bonus to the team.
Does Los Angeles have the talent to win it all?
With the new season underway, the Lakers have to start prioritizing which lineup gives them the best shot to win it all. While the talent on this Lakers roster is enough to win a championship, the rotation will be the key. When the Lakers figure out how to utilize their bench and starting units, it’ll bring about positive results. LeBron cannot play too many minutes, or else he’ll be burnt out in the postseason. Anthony Davis must become the team’s best option.
In concluding, the Lakers need to be bigger, especially against bigger teams. It makes sense that the Lakers desire shooters to pair around Lebron, but their defense suffers immensely. Secondly, the players on the bench currently provide shooting, defense, and extra rebounding for LeBron and Davis. Finally, Cam Reddish and Jaxson Hayes need more minutes. They both provide energy, defense, and explosive play ability. If Darvin Ham uses them more, places a Center and forward on the floor, it will intimidate other teams. The starting lineup doesn’t need more shooting, it needs everything else. The Lakers hang their hat on defense, rebounding, and utilizing their star power. If these adjustments can be made, Los Angeles has a shot to win the title.