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Lakers hunt for the right roster mix through early season struggles

As the 2021-22 NBA regular season nears midway, the Los Angeles Lakers are still trying to find a formula that works.

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Ahead of a clash with the Detroit Pistons 4-11, head coach Frank Vogel made another adjustment to the starting lineup.

DeAndre Jordan has been reinserted into the starting squad alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley.

It was the eleventh start of the season for the 33-year-old, who averages 13 minutes per game, his career low. It is the third time this season that he has returned to the starting squad, Davis again slipping from five to four.

Entering the game with the 20th ranked defense allowing 108.5 points per 100 possessions, the Lakers were separated in the first half, conceding 68 points to the Pistons.

In fact, they allowed Detroit to score 99 points in the first three quarters, which is astonishing considering this Pistons team failed to reach 100 points in eight of their first 15 games. this season.

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Leading up to 17 points behind in the third quarter, the Lakers would be looking for the win, but that was hardly impressive.

Granted, the Lakers have had players in and out of the roster with various illnesses, but at least so far, results with Jordan on the court haven’t been positive.

The Jordan experience is difficult to start (figures via nba.com)

Total minutes OFF Rating FED rating NET rating
D. Jordan, A. Davis, L. James, R. Westbrook, K. Bazemore 47 98.1 112.3 -14.2
D. Jordan, A. Davis, R. Westbrook, A. Bradley, K. Bazemore 40 84.5 103.6 -19.1

Jordan is in the two most used five-man rosters, with the offense in particular producing brutal results in the small sample produced so far.

While the defensive side of the ball remains a major concern, the Lakers saw a bump on the attacking side when Davis is scored as the five-man. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers’ offensive efficiency improves by 8.6 points per 100 possessions with Davis in the middle.

Understandably, the Lakers closed the game against Detroit with Davis as the big man, with the perennial All-Star offering several clutch defensive plays, including back-to-back blocks on Cade Cunningham in the last minute that effectively froze the game.

The Lakers are 9-9 this season and while now is probably not the time to smash the panic button, the reason for concern is legitimate. In 199 minutes of play, the Lakers are net -5.3 with LeBron and AD on the ground together. Last season that figure was +11.2 in 601 minutes. During the title season in 2020, he was +7.9 in 1,455 minutes.

Everyone expected this new group to take a while to form, especially with the inclusion of a player with Russell Westbrook’s skills, but it’s hard to deny that the Lakers look like a collection. of ill-suited talent, and yes, they look old.

The Lakers sit dead last for opposing points in paint at 50.9 per game and 26th for opposing quick braking points at 13.8 per game. Regarding, to say the least.

While Jordan’s insertion into the roster has been a headache, it’s certainly plausible that the Lakers are aware they need to lighten the load on their star big man as injuries have started to set in with him. some of the major older players on the list. including Jacques. Before the game in Detroit, Davis had spent 72 percent of his minutes to five, which would be a career record if he continued throughout the season.

The Lakers survived against the Pistons, with unconvincing wins on a theme throughout the first part of the season. Westbrook admitted after the game that they needed the road victory.

“It was an inevitable victory for us. We have to find ways to win games, especially on the road”, Westbrook told Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell. “Tonight was a hell of a win for all of us, for all of the Laker Nations. We needed this one tonight and we got it.”

It would seem that a lottery-related early-season game against the Pistons shouldn’t have been considered a must-have, but that’s where the Lakers are.

It’s probably fair to give this team until the New Years to make strong statements about their ability to fight the playoffs, but at least for now, those who doubted the veterans squad entering the season have no reason to change their mind.




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