One lineup that the Los Angeles Lakers have experimented with in the early phases of this season has been LeBron James playing at the center position. It hasn’t been used with too much frequency, especially due to the amount of time James has missed, but it has had extreme success in a short window.
Of all Lakers lineups that have shared the court for at least 10 minutes, the only one with James at the five is their third-best grouping. James, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk have played 12 minutes together this season and have a 44.9 net rating.
This is obviously a tiny sample size, but the net rating is so great that it warrants exploring the combination further. James feels this way as well, or so it seems after he discussed playing the center position. “I think I’m able to bark out the commands, besides tonight where I was pretty [expletive] on the defensive end tonight,” James said.
“Just my rhythm, my keys and things of that nature, but besides that I get an opportunity to tell the guys up in front of me, because I’m in the background on defense to let them know exactly what’s coming. So that we can stay above of everything that’s happening, I can see everything that’s developing. It’s been pretty good for us this year when we have myself and Melo at the four and five, besides those first five minutes of the fourth quarter where I was pretty bad, but that’s been a pretty good lineup for us.”
In that small sample size, defense has been an issue for this group. Their defensive rating of 121.7 is among the worst of any Laker lineup that’s played at least 10 minutes together. However, the staggering 166.7 offensive rating is the best of any Laker lineup with the same qualifications.
When James is at the five, obviously the Lakers are giving up a lot of size. Especially when James is not at full strength — which he hasn’t been while constantly hopping in and out of the lineup — the team struggles to get stops in the paint.
But again, the lineup has been so dominant offensively in their 12 minutes together, it’s worth trying it out a couple more times.
James admits being in and out of lineup has affected rhythm
James has played in just 12 of the Lakers’ 24 games thus far this season. And even in the 12 games he has played, he’s had moments of poor defense and bad offensive rhythm. James explained that being out of the lineup so much has played a huge role in those struggles. “I feel like obviously before going to Sacramento I was getting into a really, really good rhythm,” he said.
“Offensively, defensively as a team, we were playing well. Those guys did a hell of a job-winning that game, but for me, it’s been very frustrating either dealing with the groin or the abdomen and then having to deal with the false positive that knocked me out a game and then knocked me off the floor and not being able to keep my rhythm.
“It’s been a very challenging year to start going through the season for myself, but only good things ahead.”
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