Lakers: What Luke Walton's Lineup Changes Could Look Like
Dec 22, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton looks on during the first half against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After a handful of disappointing performances, Lakers head coach Luke Walton is considering shaking up his starting lineup. Here are a few moves he could make.
The Los Angeles Lakers bench has been a talking point all season. Their starters, however, have been incredibly underwhelming. It’s for this reason head coach Luke Walton and his staff are considering making changes to the first unit.
“We’ve talked about it,” Walton told reporters on Spectrum Sportsnet. “Maybe we’ll get there soon but we’ll have more discussion about it as we go.”
With playoffs virtually out of the question for the Lakers, Walton will have room to experiment with his young team for the remainder of the season. Here are a few lineup changes we could see before the end of the season.
Start Jordan Clarkson at Shooting Guard
Dec 20, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) reacts to a foul call in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. The Hornets defeated the Lakers 117-113. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Clarkson is enjoying a midseason resurgence of sorts with the Purple and Gold in the month of January.
In his last five games, Clarkson is averaging 15.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals. His increased productivity can easily be traced back to one statistic; playing time.
Clarkson has averaged 32.9 minutes per game over the last five games. He has played more than 30 minutes 18 times this season, according to basketball-reference.com. In those games, Clarkson scored in double figures 17 times, including his season-high 25 points.
Starting Clarkson seemed like a no-brainer at the beginning of the season, but the unexpected return to form from Nick Young forced head coach Luke Walton’s hand. While Young hasn’t done anything to justify being moved to the bench since then, Clarkson’s play as of late might earn him the starting nod sooner than later.
Jordan Clarkson started all 79 games he was healthy at shooting guard last season under former head coach Byron Scott. His 15.5 points per game last season were only second to Kobe Bryant, who was among the league leaders in field goal attempts (16.9). Never change, Kobe. Never change.
The Clarkson-D’Angelo Russell backcourt also hasn’t been given much run under Walton this season. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to reunite the Swag Bros. After all, Clarkson and Russell were supposed to be the backcourt of the future in Los Angeles, according to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
“Our vision would be that both of those players play together in the backcourt for 10-12 years,” Kupchak said in an interview with Brian Geltzeiler and Rick Mahorn on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “That’s what we’re hoping for. We don’t look at them as players that can’t play with each other or have to play with somebody else. We think they can play together.”
While trading for a shooting guard before the upcoming trade deadline is a possibility, Walton might find his best option is waiting on his bench. At just 24 yeard old, Clarkson has his best basketball ahead of him and because of the four-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Purple and Gold this past summer. those years will be with the Lakers.
Move Mozgov to the bench, start Zubac
Nov 13, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) fouls Los Angeles Lakers center Ivica Zubac (40) in the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers 125-99. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Is 19-year-old Ivica Zubac a starting-caliber center in the NBA? No, but neither is Timofey Mozgov when you really think about it.
Among starting centers in the NBA, Mozgov is dead last in rebounds per game (5) and has the worst box plus-minus. Four years, $64 million. Real tears.
If the Lakers can find a team to take his contract at the deadline, that would be the equivalent of winning an NBA championship. Confetti at Staples. Champagne in the locker room. Not only would that be a huge win off the court, but it would free up playing time for rookie Ivica Zubac. Over the last three games,
Not only would that be a huge win off the court, but it would free up playing time for rookie Ivica Zubac. Over the last three games, Zubac has averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 24.2 minutes per game. Not bad for a rook. He’s still an incredibly raw prospect, but after spending some time in the D-League
He’s still an incredibly raw prospect, but after spending some time in the D-League, Zubac looks a little more comfortable with the physicality of the NBA game. He still needs to work on boxing out and getting defensive rebounds, but if his two double-doubles in his last three games are any indication of what this kid can do, he’ll be alright.
All he needs now is an opportunity and as the season goes on I would not be surprised to see Zubac get starters minutes, and maybe even a starting spot.
See what Nance can do
Dec 20, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) stands on the court in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. The Hornets defeated the Lakers 117-113. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into the regular season, there were questions raised about who would start at power forward for the Lakers. Not only because Larry Nance Jr. looked really good at summer league and in training camp, but because no one really knew what to expect of Julius Randle.
Was his jump shot going to start falling this year? Does he have a right hand? Will he make smarter decisions with the ball? The short answer to those questions is simply “Yeah, I guess.”
Randle started the season strong, even notching a triple-double making him one of seven players to record a triple-double this season. However, it looks as though another losing season has fatigued him and Randle doesn’t look like the same player we were all so excited about to start the season.
Nance on the other hand, looks ready to bring it every night. That, and he’s arguably a more polished player than Randle is right now. Yes, Randle might have a higher ceiling, but Nance has earned the right to start for the Lake Show. The little things he does on the court don’t always show up in box score, but his high energy effort and basketball IQ are unmatched by anyone on the Lakers’ roster.
The little things Nance does on the court don’t always show up in the box score, but his high energy effort and basketball IQ are unmatched by anyone on the Lakers’ roster. If Walton decides to give him the starting nod, not too many people would be outraged.
But what do you guys think? Is this the shake up the Lakers need? Is there anyone else that deserves a spot in the first unit? Let us know in the comments below!
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