Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has fiddled with the team’s starting lineups quite a bit of late, and there could be more changes on the horizon.
At the Lakers’ morning shootaround Tuesday, Walton told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News that Larry Nance, Jr. could move into the starting lineup eventually, although he wasn’t sure if it would be alongside Ivica Zubac or Julius Randle.
Walton’s desire to give Nance a look with the starters makes sense. Nance (-4.1) has the second-best net rating among consistent contributors for the Lakers, and the team is 5.4 points per 100 possessions better with Nance on the floor versus when he sits, with their defense improving over four points per 100 possessions when he plays.
Nance has played nine more minutes with Randle this season (213) than he has with Zubac (204), and the results have been better in groupings featuring the latter combination.
Neither pairing have been world-beaters, but lineups featuring Nance and Zubac have been outscored by five points per 100 possessions, while the Randle-Nance pairing has posted a net rating of -9.8.
Zubac and Nance also have the benefit of one of the NBA’s best bromances going for them, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by their head coach:
Luke Walton: "I think @ivicazubac and @Larrydn22 got great chemistry--on and off the court." (laughs) "They're buddy-buddy."— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) March 21, 2017
The only downside to featuring those two with the starters is that Nance wouldn’t get to fulfill his (tongue in cheek) goal of dunking on Zubac so much that he leaves the NBA if they were on the same team during practice.
Whether Nance ends up starting or not, and no matter who it’s alongside, it’s a fair assumption the Lakers will look at a ton of different lineup options throughout games as their season winds to a close. Who ends up getting their name called amongst the first five is probably immaterial.
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.