Once the NBA season begins, no team is ever fully healthy, injuries come and go and you just hope none are significant enough to derail the season. The Lakers have been pretty banged up recently with LeBron James’ abductor strain, Anthony Davis’ lower back injury, a non-Covid illness going around, and Dennis Schröder and Thomas Bryant being out. But it does seem like the team is starting to get healthy again. AD is coming off his best game, LeBron is participating in non-contact practice, and Thomas Bryant and Dennis Schröder are one step closer to playing.
Wednesday update:— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 16, 2022
- LeBron played in non-contact part of practice. Status due for update tomorrow.
- Thomas Bryant and Dennis Schröder practiced and will be evaluated tomorrow; Ham said he expects them to be cleared for Friday.
- Max Christie is in health and safety protocols.
When Bryant, Bron, and Schroder return, there will be no significant pieces missing from this team. So, what are Darvin Ham’s best lineups? Who should start? What’s the bench mob? And who should close out games? Here are the lineups I think make the most sense based on the 13 games we’ve watched.
The best starting five available
If you go based solely on plus-minus, the best Laker lineup so far is Anthony Davis, Troy Brown Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves, and Max Christie. Now I do not think that’s the best lineup when everyone’s healthy, but so far, with this sample size, that’s best on paper.
In reality, I think the best option for Darvin Ham now is LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schröder. Reason I opted for this lineup is it puts nearly all your best players on the floor and adds a dynamic point guard who has proven they can play on and off the ball with LeBron James in Schröder. If Ham exchanges Dennis for Patrick Beverly, I understand but I think if you want the best five to start the game, this is the lineup to go with.
So what’s the best bench unit? Well, clearly, Russell Westbrook will lead whatever bench mob you have, as he’s the most talented one not starting right now. The four to join him? I’d go with Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Juan Toscano Anderson, and Thomas Bryant. This group has flaws, but good luck finding an all-bench unit on the Lakers you feel great about. I think this one is the best option. You have the talent of Russ, his chemistry with Gabriel, and a couple of players who aren’t incredible but are responsible in JTA and Bryant. All in all, this is the best bench unit you can create without demoting AD, Bron, or Reaves.
It's a five-point game with five minutes left. Who closes it out for the Lakers? Not knowing the flow of the game, I’d go with Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and Wenyen Gabriel. Russ, as usual, will be a point of contention for people, but when he gets going, it’s hard to deny him being on the floor. Of course, there have been a couple of occasions this year where his being on the floor in the closing minutes of a game was detrimental, but overall I still have some faith in him producing. For those who never want to see Russ close out the fourth, Schröder will be a great option once he’s officially back.
I’m not sure if a good team is in this version of the Lakers, but when fully healthy, there are a lot of interesting lineups that are guard-heavy, big-dominant, and tailored toward Russ’ skillset. It’s up to coach Ham to find these lineups and optimize this team. Looking for those perfect combinations may feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, but that is the job, and heavy lies the crown when you are coaching the King.