The NBA is ramping up its timeline as July draws near, and teams will soon be returning to their facilities in larger numbers to prepare for the final stretch. It’s been just over 100 days without any basketball, but it’s about to come back in full force.
The Lakers are in as good a position as anyone, but there is still much to figure out before the playoffs begin. How will LeBron and Anthony Davis look after such a long layoff? Will anyone decide to sit out the remainder of the season? Which role players should play the most minutes now that games matter more?
For today’s editorial, we’ll focus on just the final question and try to make sense of the Lakers’ bench for the playoffs. Head Coach Frank Vogel had the luxury of trying endless combinations during the regular season, but the time has come to start cutting minutes for certain players and giving them to others.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at who could see the most minutes coming off the Lakers’ bench come playoff time.
3. Markieff Morris
There is a reason that the Lakers brought in Morris for the stretch run. His energy and defensive presence will be a key factor in dealing with small-ball lineups throughout the playoffs, and his ability to hit any open shot doesn’t hurt. He didn’t have enough time to truly find a role with the Lakers before the league shut down, but he is a savvy veteran that should have no problem with a few more games to find a rhythm. Expect Morris to see a lot of time at the five if LA decides to go small for brief stretches.
2. Kyle Kuzma or Dion Waiters
Kyle Kuzma has had one role the entire season: score while LeBron is on the bench. He has had a decent season so far, but not the one that Lakers fans were hoping for. He is only averaging about 12 points per game in 24 minutes, which is passable for sure. He is also capable of having a breakout game on any given night, which might be the main reason to keep his playing time where it is. However, the playoffs require a different mindset and consistency. Frank Vogel will be looking for someone who can give him the same production night in and night out. For this reason alone, Dion Waiters has a chance to snatch up the main bench-scorer role if he can prove to be consistent when he finally makes his debut.
1. Alex Caruso
I would bet my last dollar that no one in the world saw LeBron James and Alex Caruso being the best duo in the NBA at the start of the season. Now obviously this is very objective and is only refers to the overall net rating when they share the floor (+24.7). Still, Caruso has been the biggest difference-maker for the Lakers this season, and he deserves the chance to show why on the biggest stage. He is the player that anyone can root for and plays harder than anyone else on the floor. Caruso looks like he has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he isn’t just an otherworldly jumper. Any road to the titles includes big minutes for the Caru-show.
Who do you believe should see more playing time off the bench for the Lakers? Let us know in the comments below!