When the regular season begins, there’s a strong chance Kobe Bryant won’t be ready to suit up, which begs the question: “What will the Lakers’ starting five look like?”
Well, we know two players–Steve Nash and Pau Gasol–will definitely be starting, barring any injuries.
Nash will play point guard, of course, and Gasol will start at the center position. After the debacle surrounding Gasol last season, I think there’s little doubt that his natural position is in the low-post, and head coach Mike D’Antoni certainly realizes that and has an easy decision to make now that Dwight Howard is gone.
As for the other three starters, many variables will play into that decision, and it will certainly take some experimentation on D’Antoni’s part.
Here are a few scenarios.
Possible Lineup #1: Traditional
- PG: Steve Nash
- SG: Nick Young
- SF: Wesley Johnson
- PF: Jordan Hill/Chris Kaman
- C: Pau Gasol
D’Antoni can start Nick Young at the shooting guard slot, Wesley Johnson at the small forward position, and Jordan Hill or Chris Kaman at power forward. This would be the most traditional lineup, and provide the Lakers with one of their better possible defensive lineups in the front court. Individual defense is a weak point for the Lakers, and although Kurt Rambis will help with team defense, there are certain things he can’t fix.
Having said that, Wesley Johnson is probably the best defensive option for the Lakers at the small forward position, and Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill are players who are capable of cleaning up the glass and know how to mix it up in the paint. Defensively, this would be a feasible option for the Lakers, although the back court will have some weaknesses on that end of the floor.
On a side note, after Xavier Henry’s breakout performance on Saturday night (29 points, 7 rebounds on 9-14 shooting from the field; 2-4 from three point land), he could make the case for starting in Kobe’s absence. Of course, he’d have to make the team’s final cut first, but he certainly made a case for himself over the weekend — averaging 22 points and five rebounds in two preseason games.
Once again, this would be the more “traditional” type of lineup in the sense of having a natural shooting guard in the two-guard slot, a small forward at the three, and most importantly a traditional power forward at the four slot.
However, Mike D’Antoni and “traditional” hardly go together in the same sentence, as D’Antoni loves to play a spaced out, “small ball” style; which brings us to the next possible lineup.
We actually saw a variation of this lineup on Sunday evening, with Shawne Williams at power forward in an attempt of a faster paced style with a “stretch four.” Williams did decently well, knocking down a few outside shots and exhibiting a few nice defensive plays. For future reference, we’ll label this lineup “Contingent,” contingent upon whether D’Antoni opts for a “stretch four” in his lineup and contingent on whether Williams makes the team and can shoot consistently from long range.
Williams isn’t widely considered a “stretch four” or a consistent outside shooter, but in his best season — under Mike D’Antoni for 64 games in New York — he averaged 40 percent from behind the three-point line. Mentions of him being a “stretch four” for the Lakers would be contingent upon the fact that he can get back to that level of shooting.
Next Page: Lineup #2 – Run & Fun