Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton confirmed at Media Day he’d already begun mulling over various small-ball lineups that he intended to evaluate during training camp. Many assumed it entailed LeBron James possibly sliding over to center, but that instead may be Kyle Kuzma.
While the young forward may be the first choice to play center, assuming he can do so effectively, James and others figure to man several positions as well.
“We want to be a positionless team. There’s going to be times where we’re all playing different positions, so I think that’s going to be the benefit of our ballclub,” James said.
“With Kuz at the five and the four and the three; B.I. at the one, two, three, four and five; myself at one, two, three, four, five at times, we have a lot of guys that can play a lot of different positions. We just have to help rebound.”
James’ last point is what ultimately may decide how and when the Lakers are able to go small. The evaluation of such a lineup will take into account mismatches for both themselves and the opponent.
“We’ve got an analytical department breaking stuff like that down,” Walton answered when asked if the Lakers would trade a possible disadvantage on defense for one on the offensive end of the court.
“Even if we’re getting hurt on post-ups from another team’s big, are we outscoring them on the other end by spreading them out and having their five-man have to guard Kuz or something like that? We’re always having those debates, and we use our analytical department to help prove one way or the other.”
Walton then made it clear the team’s ability to utilize their depth with a variety of lineups will hinge on rebounding. “It’s the only way it’ll work for us,” Walton unequivocally stated.
“If we can’t rebound the basketball, then we will have to get away from positionless basketball and go back to the good ole, solid one through five.”
Working in the Lakers’ favor is Lonzo Ball, James and Rajon Rondo are all strong rebounders. Meanwhile, Michael Beasley, Kuzma and Lance Stephenson are also adequate on the glass themselves.