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Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington upgraded to probable for Thunder rematch

Dwight Howard’s return poses questions for the Lakers’ starting lineup.

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Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have upgraded Dwight Howard and Wayne Ellington to probable for their rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. Howard has missed the last two games with a neck stiffness, while Ellington has yet to make his regular season debut due to a lingering hamstring injury.

Of the two injuries, Howard’s has been the most consequential thus far. Not only has the undersized second unit missed his rebounding and shot-blocking, but his absence has inspired Frank Vogel to start Anthony Davis at center in the last two games.

It will be interesting to see if Howard’s return — whether it be Thursday or shortly thereafter — results in Vogel moving Davis moving back down to the 4. Vogel had said he planned to go big again at some point, and while the Lakers have been 6.8 points better per 100 possessions on defense with Davis at the 4 this season, per Cleaning the Glass, their overall net rating is better with him at center in large part due to how he’s performed offensively.

With Davis at the 4, the Lakers have had an offensive rating of 101.7; with Davis at the 5, they’ve scored 110 points per 100 possessions, which is 2.2 points higher than their season average. For anyone who’s watched how congested the offense can get with Davis and Jordan on the floor this season, that’s hardly a surprise, but it’s still notable.

If Vogel still prefers Davis at center even with both of his regular centers available, it will be interesting to see who wins the competition for the open wing spot. It’s been Avery Bradley the past two games, but with how many guards are on the roster, we could see a few different names pop in and out of the starting lineup as the season progresses, including Ellington if he gets his shots to fall upon his return from injury.

The Lakers and Thunder will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet.

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