There were plenty of negatives for the Lakers to learn from in their Christmas Day loss to the Clippers, like how slow the defense was to rotate, how stagnant the offense got in key stretches and the team’s shot selection. However, there were also a few positives that head coach Frank Vogel can build on for the future — particularly with his lineups.
Towards the end of the first half of Wednesday’s game, Vogel rolled out a lineup featuring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Anthony Davis. That lineup went on a run that gave the Lakers a 12-point lead at the half and ended the game with a net rating of +63.2.
Before the season started, the expectation was that lineups featuring the forward trio of James, Kuzma and Davis to be successful, but because of how banged up Kuzma’s been to start the season, that three-man lineup has played just 109 minutes together. During that time, though, they’ve posted a net rating of +25.2. The only three-man lineup on the Lakers with a higher net rating (minimum 100 minutes played) this season is Alex Caruso, James and Davis (+28.1).
Health permitting, Vogel said that the Lakers will continue to experiment with lineups with James, Kuzma and Davis.
“Unfortunately, we had a minutes restriction with [Kuzma] that game so we had to limit how much we could keep him in there, but that’s a lineup — with AD at the 5, Kuz at the 4, and LeBron, and two other really good players we have on the team — that we feel like could be our best lineup,” Vogel said after practice on Friday.
Davis has made it no secret that he prefers to play power forward as opposed to center, but he recognizes that lineups with him at 5 and Kuzma at the 4 improve the Lakers’ spacing.
“The pressure that I put on the rim when I roll gives guys open shots and obviously we’ve got a lot of great shooters,” Davis said. “We’ve missed Kuz for a great deal of the season, but he’s back and he’s healthy. When he’s playing like that, we’re a tough team to beat.”
There will be nights where splitting the minutes at center between JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard will be advantageous for the Lakers, but in a tight game or a playoff series, it’s safe to assume they’ll lean on the three forward lineup.