Lakers Nation Roundtable: Frontcourt Rotation Confusion
The Los Angeles Lakers have revamped their frontcourt this off-season. Adding Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle, and Ed Davis to the returning Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, and Robert Sacre have given the Lakers a number of options.
However, most of these players have spent the majority of their time playing at the power forward position, and only Ryan Kelly has the ability to stretch the defense out to the three-point line.
Randle was the Lakers’ first-round pick, and with the team far from championship contention, you would like to believe he could get enough minutes to help his development.
Davis is a four-year NBA veteran who has never really had the chance to show what he can do in extended minutes. He also offers the Lakers’ best possibility of a true rim protector, something the team sorely needs.
Hill and Boozer are the most developed of the players and would probably give the team the most production immediately. Hill is a hustle specialist who excels on the boards but struggles offensive.
Boozer is the exact opposite, offering solid offensive production and struggling on the defensive end. Meanwhile Robert Sacre showed that he can be effective in spot minutes, but likely shouldn’t be more than that.
With so many options, all of these guys will not be able to play the amount of minutes they would like. So we asked our panel of experts what they believe the Lakers’ frontcourt rotation should be. This is what they had to say.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): With so many forwards on the roster, the Los Angeles Lakers will have a difficult time allocating minutes to start next season. Now that Jordan Hill is back and Ed Davis is in the fold, I believe Robert Sacre will be back to cheering on the sidelines.
I can’t really see Sacre getting much time on the floor next season without Mike D’Antoni calling the shots. Any coach outside of D’Antoni would likely go with more versatile or more well-rounded players like Hill and Davis.
As for power forward, things will likely get tricky. Although most Lakers fans will want to see rookie Julius Randle playing heavy minutes, Carlos Boozer will more than likely be the starter at the four spot. Randle could come off the bench to backup Boozer, but Kelly might get the nod depending on where the new coach will want to play him.
Once a new head coach is in place, and more than likely it’ll be Byron Scott, the outlook for next season will begin to take shape. The real question will be what to do with Kelly and Randle right out of the gate, but I think the Lakers brass will urge the coach to get their top draft pick involved early and often.
It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Kelly gets some consideration at small forward. Wesley Johnson is the only real player on the roster at that position. Nick Young, Kobe Bryant and Xavier Henry have also played the three spot in the past.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): The Lakers have a very intriguing group of big men coming into this season. But figuring out the rotation is going to be extremely difficult.
I’ll get the obvious out of the way. Robert Sacre should not be seeing any sort of significant minutes barring major foul problems and/or injuries.
Now comes the hard part. Jordan Hill showed some promise down the stretch last season, but I worry whether he can do it on a consistent basis for 30 minutes a night. One addition, in my opinion, should be the starter and that man is Ed Davis.
I had been campaigning for the Lakers to sign Davis since well before free agency began and am ecstatic he is now a member of this team. The main reason I believe he should be starting is that he is the Lakers’ best rim protector.
Starting Davis would also allow Hill to continue to play 25 minutes a night and wreak havoc on second units with his hustle and rebounding.
At the power forward spot, Carlos Boozer is likely to get the nod and he should as he is a reliable player. Him starting will not severely affect Julius Randle as Randle will still get a lot of minutes in order for him to develop.
While Randle has promise, he still is a long way away from being a truly impactful player. Unfortunately for Ryan Kelly, I feel he will be the odd man out, but with his shooting ability, he is always capable of carving out some minutes for himself.
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): To start the season, I’d have Carlos Boozer start at power forward and Jordan Hill start at center.
Although Hill isn’t a true center, the league has adopted the “small ball” style of play. Additionally, Hill is the Lakers’ best defender in the frontcourt, and can rebound the ball well. The two should virtually be able to switch off, which should help the Lakers’ team defense.
I’d like to see Randle come off the bench at first, and fill minutes at both positions. If he can prove he’s able to stretch the floor with his outside shot, he may even earn a starting spot, or at least more minutes.
If his outside shot isn’t going for him or he’s unable to quite keep up with the rigors of the NBA off the bat, I expect Ryan Kelly to get some minutes at the four, as she showed some defensive capabilities last season, along with his expected outside shot.
The Lakers have depth in the frontcourt going into next season, which was their biggest advantage in the last two championship seasons. They may not quite have the same size, but their main strength is sure to come from within the post, and that needs to be fully utilized in order to win as many ballgames as possible.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): I believe the two frontcourt starters should be Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill as they are the best players right now.
With those two on top of the depth chart, I see Julius Randle being the first one off the bench and replacing Boozer. The Lakers will need to give Randle plenty of minutes over the course of the year and he could very well take over the starting job by the end of the season.
Ed Davis will also see plenty of minutes with his ability to play both power forward and center. I also see Davis as a good complement to Randle when they are on the court together.
As for the other two big men on the roster, Ryan Kelly is deserving of a bigger role since he can stretch defenses out with his shooting ability while Sacre will primarily see minutes when everyone else gets into foul trouble.
At the end of it all, Randle and Hill will see a majority of the minutes although Boozer gets the start. Boozer, Davis, Kelly will likely get around the same amount of playing time as each other but less than Randle and Hill with their different roles that they all be asked to take.
The Lakers will be coming into the season with some frontcourt depth, and are going to be taking advantage of it by giving plenty of minutes when needed. Since they also have some young and developing players, they are going to want to play them.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): The Lakers have put themselves in a pickle by acquiring an excess of power forwards yet neglecting the rim defender role.
Out of the Lakers’ six bigs only Davis has the tools to be a potential shot blocker. However, Davis tends to do most of his damage from the weakside. He’s slim at 225 pounds and will have a tough time matching up with larger players like Marc Gasol and Nikola Pekovic.
Instead it’ll likely be up to Sacre to guard opposing centers since he’s the tallest and heaviest player on the Lakers’ roster.
Given the roster I’d expect Hill to see significant time at center and possibly even get the starting nod. He played well towards the end of last season when D’Antoni finally unleashed him and gave him consistent minutes.
Boozer was a surprising acquisition after the Lakers signed Ed Davis. But give the front office credit for picking up a savvy veteran at a steep discount. Hopefully he will mentor Randle and also guide the other young Lakers big men.
The Lakers wisely resigned rookie Ryan Kelly to a two year deal. Kelly is a prototypical stretch-four which is increasingly en vogue in the NBA these days. He will need to continue to work on his rebounding and defense, but hopefully he can develop into a meaningful contributor down the line.
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room – how will the Lakers ensure the young and promising Julius Randle will get enough minutes? The Lakers first rounder has very high upside, but if he isn’t given minutes then it’ll be tough for him to develop.
Whoever ends up coaching the Lakers should allow Randle to get his feet wet – and by that I mean allowing him to develop through the ups and downs off his rookie season. Randle will make his fair share of mistakes and he’ll need significant minutes in order to learn to play through them.
One possible solution is to give Randle some minutes at the small forward position in addition to his native position of power forward.
Lakers Acquire Carlos Boozer