The Los Angeles Lakers have experimented with different big- and small-ball formations in the 2021-22 campaign, trying to figure out the most effective rotation amid early-season struggles.
The Lakers started seven of their 22 games with Anthony Davis at the center position this year. But even when head coach Frank Vogel deploys DeAndre Jordan next to Davis in the starting lineup, L.A. often switches to smaller units as the game goes on.
Whenever the Lakers go small, Russell Westbrook’s responsibilities change significantly during games. In Sunday’s victory over the Detroit Pistons, L.A. moved both Davis and LeBron James to the five, leaving Westbrook with more space in the paint.
The 2017 NBA MVP made six field goals from within five feet on Sunday, a noticeable uptick compared to the 3.95 he averages this year.
“Yeah, Coach [Vogel] emphasized that he wanted to try it again tonight and it worked for us,” Westbrook said of the Lakers’ switch to small-ball. “For me, I just try to find ways to be effective, and whether it’s attacking or driving and kicking out, figuring out ways to be able to do that.”
Westbrook said he has the skillset to adapt when the Lakers go small. When that happens, the 33-year-old added, he feels comfortable finding other ways in which he can contribute and help L.A. win.
“One thing about me, I can adapt to anything,” Westbrook said. “I can play 1-5. I’m very comfortable playing in the dunker’s spot, rolling, pick-and-roll, setting a screen. Doing whatever it is that our team needs to be successful, I can do it. That’s us going small helps us out, we can still space the floor, I can play the dunker’s spot.
“I would say I’m a pretty good rebounder for my size, so I take it as a challenge. Just do whatever it takes for us to win and me being in that lineup allows me to do different things like roam and rebound and just be active.”
Davis explains how Lakers’ small-ball changes his role
Davis has explained he spends more time around the perimeter when he plays at the four to avoid clogging the paint when another big is on the floor. Davis added L.A. can switch more freely when he plays as the center, particularly when James partners him in the frontcourt.
“When I’m at the five and LeBron is at the four, we can switch all over the floor,” the 28-year-old said.
“All pick-and-rolls, pin downs, whatever, we can just switch it. When we have another big out there, we usually just do four-fives. It worked well for us tonight, DJ [Deandre Jordan] with his vertical spacing, rim protection. I think my role just changes a little bit if I’m at the four or if I’m at the five.”
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