Small ball > traditional 5
For Laker fans, the first four minutes of Saturday’s game were about as enjoyable to watch as the 20-win teams of last decade.
The offense had no flow. LeBron brought the ball past mid-court, the ball is passed around a couple times and somebody bricks a jumper.
The defense wasn’t much better. Toronto showed why it’s the defending NBA champion. Its ball-movement was beautiful. The Raptors unselfishness led to open corner-threes and a quick 13-0 lead.
The Lakers didn’t score until nearly four minutes in. When the Lakers went small, and JaVale McGee and Danny Green were substituted for Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso, the offense clicked.
Kuzma continued the strong pace he set in the bubble-opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. In addition to playing solid defense against wings, he scored 16 in 28 minutes and added four rebounds.
When the games become meaningful, Kuzma needs to be a staple of the Laker offense.
Sure, he struggled before the hiatus, and we’re only two games into the restart. But Kuzma seems to have bought into his new role. He’s still occasionally trying his isolation hero ball (there was one particular head-scratching post-up from the three-point line), but for the most part Kuzma has been a solid spot-up shooter.
What other move could the Lakers do for the playoffs? Substitute Danny Green in the starting five for Dion Waiters.
Waiters has a +/- of 25 in his two games as a Laker. He’s been mostly consistent as a shooter (42% FG) and he’s taken care of the ball.
Green has been poor on both sides of the ball. He was held scoreless in 19 minutes Saturday as he shot 0-for-7.
A small-ball lineup requires Anthony Davis to play center, which he’s publically been against. But simply put, he needs to play the five for the Lakers to keep up with high-powered offenses like Toronto.
With six low-stakes games left, head coach Frank Vogel might want to experiment with a new starting five before it gets real.