Quantcast
Connect with us

Projecting the Lakers 2021-22 starting lineup

frank vogel lakers starting lineups lebron james

We definitively know three of the starters for the Los Angeles Lakers when they open their 2021-22 season against the Golden State Warriors. I can safely report that LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook will hear their names called by Lawrence Tanter at Staples Center on Oct. 19. However, who will occupy the final two spots in Frank Vogel’s starting lineup is one of the many questions the Lakers have to answer after completely overhauling their roster this offseason.

Other than Rajon Rondo, one could make a case for starting every player the Lakers have acquired in August. Talen Horton-Tucker may emerge as the team’s fourth-best player (and is now being paid like it). Kendrick Nunn was the lone addition who will make more than the veterans minimum and can play either guard spot. Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington are the best spacing options next to Westbrook.

In the frontcourt, Dwight Howard is a viable option over Marc Gasol. There could even be an opening for Kent Bazemore, Carmelo Anthony, or Trevor Ariza depending on a) how well they play in training camp and preseason, and b) how often LeBron and AD commit to sliding to the 4 and 5 during the regular season. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.

Here’s how I see it shaking out:

The Lakers should, and will, start Ellington. He’s coming off his best three-point shooting season (42.2%) in a career full of excellent three-point shooting seasons. His elite off-ball movement will come in handy next to Westbrook — one of the game’s worst off-ball movers. At his introductory press conference, Ellington told ClutchPoints how his movement can open up lanes “for guys to get downhill.”

At center, I think Vogel will begin with Gasol, should he return for the final season of his contract (not a guarantee) for three primary reasons: continuity, ball movement, and shooting.

According to my geometric calculations, a lineup with Gasol at the 5 offers dramatically better spacing than one with Howard. Big Spain shot 40% from deep last season, and his passing IQ can be splendid when blended with James’ all-time orchestration. The Lakers went 22-6 in the first 28 games of the season before Davis got hurt on Valentine’s Day — all of which Gasol started. Overall, lineups with the three of them had a 13.4 net rating in 2020-21.

Not to mention: Gasol played excellent basketball down the stretch last season. Clearly irked by the organization’s decision to sign Andre Drummond and guarantee him the starting job, Gasol increased his production and was the team’s best center. In the month of April, he averaged 8.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and made nearly 65% of his triples.

In Howard’s last go-round for the Lakers, in 2019-20, Vogel started him just twice in the regular season, then seven of the last eight playoff games. At this stage of his career, though, Howard is most valuable as a defensive spark-plug with a second unit, as he was for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2020-21 (14.5 points, 17.5 rebounds per 36 minutes). He may be more of an imposing physical, defensive and pick-and-roll force than Gasol, but next to James, Davis, and Westbrook, Pau’s younger bro is a more ideal fit.

So, there you have it: Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol. Lakers in 5?