The Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup was a problem for them early in the season. Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov weren’t playing up to the massive contracts the Lakers lavished upon them over the offseason, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle faced growing pains, Nick Young was Nick Young, and the whole unit never seemed to truly gel.
45 games into the NBA season that’s no longer the case, and so it was no surprise when Luke Walton told reporters on Tuesday that he didn’t plan on mixing things up any time soon.
“I like guys getting chemistry, playing together,” Walton told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. “I think the starting lineup’s actually been doing a pretty good job. [In] most games, we’ve gotten off to pretty good starts now. That was a problem early on, but I think they’ve figured that out. Now a lot of the problem is to start the third quarter. So I guess if we’re making baby steps and progression, we’ll get to the third quarter next. But I think the starting group’s been pretty solid for the most part recently.”
He’s not wrong. Of five-man lineups to play more than 10 total minutes over the last ten games, the Lakers’ starting group has the highest net rating on the team, outscoring opponents by 15.5 points per 100 possessions. Randle, Russell, Young, Mozgov, and Deng have held opponents to just 97.1 points per 100 possessions while scoring 112.6 of their own. 63.6 percent of that unit’s baskets have been assisted over that span as well, the second-best mark on the team and a positive sign that the Lakers could be on a path towards correcting the ball movement issues they’ve had this season.
If the starters’ success over the last ten games is a real indicator of improvement, it would be a huge positive for a team that faced a lot of questions about where that groups’ ceiling ultimately lay. Whether or not their newfound effectiveness can be maintained over the second half of the season is one of the many things worth watching as the Lakers’ playoff hopes sit on life support.