Since Avery Bradley made the decision opt out of the remainder of the NBA season for personal reasons, all eyes have been on the open spot in the Lakers’ starting lineup, and who head Frank Vogel will go with to fill it.
Bradley started 44 of the 49 games he appeared in for the Lakers this season, and averaged 24.2 minutes per game. In the five games Bradley didn’t start because he was recovering from injury, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started in his place. Caldwell-Pope also started in the 14 games Bradley missed due to injury.
While a case can be made for Alex Caruso to move into the starting lineup, Vogel is leaning towards starting Caldwell-Pope.
“We’ll always have an open competition, especially when we have practices. We’ve got two weeks before our first scrimmage, and there’s still another 17 days before our first game.” Vogel said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.
“But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did a phenomenal job when Avery was injured,” Vogel said. “That’s really where I’m at in terms of what the starting lineup is going to look like, with him being in that slot. Obviously we’ll see how things go throughout practice, and other guys will have opportunities.”
The Lakers have gone 17-3 in the games Caldwell-Pope has started this season. Additionally, the five-man lineup of Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee has posted a net rating of +3.4 in the 253 minutes they’ve played together this season. With Bradley in the starting lineup in place of Caldwell-Pope, they’ve posted a of +12.6.
The biggest disparity between the Lakers’ lineup with Bradley and Caldwell-Pope is the defensive rating. The Lakers are 12.2 points better per 100 possessions with Bradley in the starting lineup as opposed to Caldwell-Pope. However, the Lakers are three points better per 100 possessions on offense with Caldwell-Pope in the starting lineup in place of Bradley, in large part due to Caldwell-Pope’s 3-point efficiency.
It will be interesting to see if Vogel has Caldwell-Pope focus back in on the defensive end with Bradley out, or if he chooses to bank on the team’s stellar offensive rating (117) with Caldwell-Pope in the starting unit to win them games. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be an “either or” situation, but that’s seemed to be the case so far during Caldwell-Pope’s time in Los Angeles. We’ll see if that changes in the bubble.