With the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida, just over two weeks away, the Los Angeles Lakers have some lineup issues they will need to work out before the start of the playoffs.
The Lakers will be without two of their guards after Avery Bradley opted out of playing the remainder of the season and Rajon Rondo went down with a broken right thumb, forcing him to be out at least six weeks.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has not yet named a replacement for Bradley in the starting lineup, although he hinted at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope being the likely selection.
“We’ll always have an open competition, especially when we have practices and two weeks leading up to our first scrimmage and another 17 days before our first (seeding) game,” Vogel said.
“But, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did a phenomenal job when Avery was injured earlier in the season. 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 still see how things go throughout practice, and other guys will have opportunities.”
The Lakers went 17-3 in games Caldwell-Pope started this season while Bradley was out with an injury, so Vogel is right that he has some familiarity and success with that unit.
With Caldwell-Pope moving from the bench to the starting unit, that leaves a void for the second unit to fill. The Lakers’ lack of guard depth is what makes that and the loss of Rondo difficult, but not impossible, to overcome.
Filling Rondo’s Void In Second Unit
The Lakers added a pair of guards by bringing in veteran experience with Dion Waiters and JR Smith, two former teammates of LeBron James’.
With the losses of Rondo and Bradley and Caldwell-Pope likely shifting to the starting unit, Vogel will be more reliant on Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook off the bench but is also excited to see what Waiters has to offer.
“More will be needed in that regard from Alex and Quinn Cook. We have the ability to use our bigs with Kuz and in particular A.D. having the ability to bring it up and initiate offense. But I also like the prospects of seeing what Dion Waiters can do,” Vogel said.
“We’ve got two really good basketball players that we added late in our season, that do different things but are equally as important. With JR being a big-time catch and shoot player, and Dion with the ability to make plays off the bounce. Losing Rondo puts more of a need on Dion’s skill set. I look forward to seeing what he can do as we get into games, but all of those guys will pick up slack.”
While the Lakers’ backcourt is thin, they still have James and Anthony Davis carrying most of the slack. That leaves them as well-equipped as any team in basketball to leave Orlando with a championship trophy.
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