Thursday, December 1

Lakers look for the right lineup mix through early season struggles



As the 2021-22 NBA regular season nears the quarter-way mark, the Los Angeles Lakers are still trying to find a formula that works.

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Before a 4-11 showdown with the Detroit Pistons, head coach Frank Vogel made another adjustment to the starting lineup.

DeAndre Jordan was again inserted into the starting group alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley.

It was the 11th start to the season for the 33-year-old, who is averaging 13 minutes per game, a career low. It is the third time this season that he has reentered the starting group, with Davis once again sliding from five to four.

Get in the game with him Defense ranked 20th by giving up 108.5 points per 100 possessions, the Lakers were separated in the first half, conceding 68 points to the Pistons.

In fact, they allowed Detroit to score 99 points during the first three quarters, which is staggering when you consider that this Pistons team had failed to reach 100 points in eight of its first 15 games this season.

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With up to 17 points behind in the third quarter, the Lakers would be looking for a win, but it wasn’t impressive at all.

It is true that the Lakers have had players in and out of the lineup with various ailments, but at least up to this point, the results with Jordan on the court have not been positive.

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Jordan’s experiment got off to a rocky start (numbers via nba.com)

Total minutes OFF rating DEF classification Net ranking
D. Jordan, A. Davis, L. James, R. Westbrook, K. Bazemore 47 98.1 112.3 -14.2
D. Jordan, A. Davis, R. Westbrook, A. Bradley, K. Bazemore 40 84.5 103.6 -19.1

Jordan is in the top two most used five-man lineups, and offense, in particular, produces brutal results in the small sample produced so far.

While the defensive side of the ball remains a major concern, the Lakers have seen a hit on the offensive side when Davis is tagged as the five-man. According to the cleanliness of the glass, the Lakers’ offensive efficiency improves by 8.6 points per 100 possessions with Davis in the center.

Naturally, the Lakers closed out the game against Detroit with Davis as the big man, with the perennial All-Star coming in with multiple defensive clutch plays, including back-to-back blocks on Cade Cunningham in the final minute that effectively froze the game.

The Lakers are 9-9 on the season, and while this is probably not the time to break the panic button, the cause for concern is legitimate. Throughout 199 minutes of play, the Lakers post a net rating of -5.3 with LeBron and AD on the court together. Last season that figure was +11.2 in 601 minutes. During the title season in 2020 it was +7.9 in 1455 minutes.

Everyone was hoping this new group would take some time to come together, particularly with the inclusion of a player with the skills of Russell Westbrook, but it’s hard to deny that the Lakers seem like a collection of talents that doesn’t fit in, and yes, they do look old.

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Lakers rank last for their opponent points in the paint at 50.9 per game and 26th for the opponent’s fast break points at 13.8 per game. Referential, to say the least.

While Jordan’s insertion back into the lineup was a scratch to the head, it is certainly plausible that the Lakers are aware that they need to lighten the load on their big star, as injuries have started to take hold on some of the players. Oldest key on the list. including James. Before the game in Detroit, Davis had spent 72 percent of his minutes in all five, which would be a career-high number if spread throughout the season.

The Lakers survived against the Pistons, with unconvincing victories as their theme during the early part of the season. Westbrook admitted after the game that they needed to get the road win.

“For us it was something we had to win. We have to find ways to win games, especially away from home.” Westbrook told Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell. “Tonight was a great victory for all of us, for all of the Laker Nation. We needed this night and we got it.”

It would seem likely that an early-season game against the Pistons going to the lottery would not have been expected to be considered a must-win, but this is where the Lakers stand.

It’s probably fair to give this team until the New Year to make strong statements about its ability to compete in the postseason, but for now at least, those who doubted the veteran team making it into the season have no reason to change their minds.

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