Which players on the Lakers roster will be a part of their regular rotation, and what will their roles be?
PG Russell Westrbook
SG Kendrick Nunn
SF LeBron James
PF Anthony Davis
C Damian Jones
DEEP BENCH – VETERANS
DEEP BENCH – DEVELOPING YOUTH
Scotty Pippen Jr.
LIKELY TO BE WAIVED
For now, Jones has cemented himself as the starting center. The Lakers seem unwilling to accept the fact that the team’s best lineups have Davis at center and James at power forward. While Jones has been on two championship teams in Golden State, he did not play a significant role on those teams. He’s never averaged more than 20 minutes per game or had any eyes on him with any pressure to perform, so it will be interesting to see how he responds. The team also has the option to go with Thomas Bryant, who averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds in a starting role for the Wizards for a couple of years before suffering a knee injury.
The shooting guard position is Kendrick Nunn’s to lose. Nunn missed all of last year, but in the two seasons before that with the Heat he averaged 15 points per game and proved to be a tenacious defender. If Nunn shows any rust or has any further injury problems, the Lakers may look to either Austin Reaves or Lonnie Walker to fill that role. Walker toiled in anonymity for the Spurs for 4 seasons, and it may be a bad sign that they were willing to cut bait on him as opposed to extending him. Reaves’ style of play might be a better fit alongside the other starters, and he did start 19 games last season as a rookie.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Every move that Westbrook makes will be scrutinized in detail, and he will be the scapegoat if the team plays poorly. If he gets benched, bought out, or traded, Patrick Beverley would likely take his place in the starting lineup. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers are able to find a way to integrate Westbrook and maximize his skills in his second year with the team, or if the situation just proves to be untenable.
Dennis Schroder did not have a good year last year and appears to be in a steady decline. But on a roster full of new faces, at least he has some familiarity playing with James and Davis from his stint with the team 2 years ago. This will be an opportunity for him to resurrect his career; if he continues his downward slide, he may find his way out of the league at year-end.
James is always a player to watch. This year, his 20th, will be especially fascinating. If he can stay healthy, he’ll almost certainly break the all-time scoring record that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held since 1984. What’s not certain is if the Lakers will be good enough to make the playoffs despite the presence of James and Davis, and whether that will cast a dark cloud over whatever individual accomplishments James achieves as he continues his assault on the record books.