Once the dust settled after the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James, the roster appeared to have a glaring weakness at center. The only viable options were journeyman JaVale McGee and third-year big man Ivica Zubac.
However, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka dismissed concern. Johnson named Michael Beasley and Kyle Kuzma as candidates to play center in a league that was shifting to smaller lineups anyhow.
The Lakers experimented with Beasley and Kuzma at center during the preseason, leading to negative results. That carried into the regular season as they struggled to defend and rebound whenever McGee was not in the game. The issue was addressed by signing Tyson Chandler.
Although the Lakers have largely gone away from playing small-ball, in some part because of recent injuries, Kuzma is confident they will eventually be able to lean on such a lineup, per Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group:
Kyle Kuzma on small ball: "I think we can have a Death Lineup whether that’s Rondo and Lonzo on the floor at the same time and me and BI and Bron or substituting guys. I think as we get better defensively and get more continuity, that small ball lineup is going to be huge for us"
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) January 9, 2019
Lakers head coach Luke Walton recently voiced a similar sentiment, calling on the team to improve when playing a versatile lineup that the Golden State Warriors popularized. The ability to do so largely hinges on James or Kuzma adequately anchoring the middle of the defense.
Kuzma has made some strides as the season has wore on, while James is currently recovering from a strained groin. The Lakers could again turn to Beasley, as he’s had encouraging stretches since re-joining the team.
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