While we know that Pau Gasol will be returning to his natural position at starting center, the question of who else will fill out the starting frontcourt still remains unanswered. Mike D’Antoni has experimented with various frontcourt lineups during the four preseason games thus far to see which frontcourt rotations work the best.
Based on what the fans have seen so far in the preseason, what should the starting frontcourt be for the Lakers? The Lakers Nation roundtable writers decided to tackle this topic this week. Here’s what they had to say:
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Well, we know that Pau Gasol will be starting in the frontcourt at center, so let’s discuss the other two positions.
I’ve stated recently how I feel that Jordan Hill could be an X-Factor for the Lakers this season, as well as explored multiple scenarios for the starting lineup to begin the season.
In both of these assessments, I came to the conclusion that Jordan Hill should start at power forward. He’s an extremely talented offensive rebounder with endless hustle.
I conceded that Shawne Williams may end up starting as a stretch four, as D’Antoni prefers to run his system that way.
However, over the past few days, I’ve rethought this. Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol displayed a natural chemistry while playing together and switching off at the four and five slots. Both do similar things on the floor in terms of having the ability to shoot from distance, possessing solid post moves, and being willing and able passers.
Essentially, Kaman gives the Lakers a little bit of both inside and outside game offensive–as does Pau. The two are interchangeable on defense as well. To start games, I would go with these two in an effort to utilize size and superior passing in the high and low post.
Then, Hill and Williams can come off the bench and provide energy (Hill) and the ability to stretch the floor (Williams) at the five and four slots, respectively.
As for the small forward position, while Kobe Bryant’s out, I would go with Wesley Johnson if he can compensate for his lack of offense through defense, or Xavier Henry if D’Antoni wants more offensive production. I wouldn’t start Nick Young at the three simply because I feel he should be a scoring punch off the bench and is a natural shooting guard.
I’m sure we’ll get to witness plenty more experimentation with the lineups throughout the rest of preseason and beyond, though, so it should be interesting.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): Assuming the Lakers have Nash and Kobe in the backcourt, I believe the best starting frontcourt for the Lakers would be Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, and Pau Gasol.
Originally I believed Jordan Hill should start next to Gasol down low, but Kaman and Gasol have shown such good chemistry in their time together during the preseason that it would be foolish not to have both of them on the floor together as much as possible, which would allow Hill to bring much needed energy and athleticism off the bench.
The argument for the small forward position is a difficult one as Nick Young is almost definitely a better player than Johnson. However, Johnson would be the better fit next to Bryant as a defensive stopper and spot-up shooter. Young is a gifted scorer, but having another ball dominant wing player next to Kobe is never a good mix, and his scoring ability would be much better served off the bench. Meanwhile, Johnson can assume a lesser role in the starting lineup and focus on the little things to make him a more effective player for the Lakers.
Ramneet Singh (@RamneetSingh24): The NBA preseason has finally tipped off, and the Los Angeles Lakers now have a chance to evaluate their lineup. Over the summer, the team brought in a few big men, including Chris Kaman. Although Kaman’s original role on the team was the back up Pau Gasol, he has shown me that he is fully capable of starting alongside the Spaniard.
Kaman and Gasol have formed great chemistry in their short time together, and it will only improve as the season progresses. Kaman is an experienced frontcourt player, and there is never any harm in starting someone with his skill-set. Jordan Hill was the early offseason favorite to be in the starting five, but his energy and level of play will work best off the bench.
The Lakers lost Dwight Howard over the offseason and although Kaman is no Howard, he can certainly make a huge impact on the court. Over the course of the preseason, Gasol and Kaman have been able to find each other easy, open shots, and they play with such grace and effectiveness. As time goes on, Gasol and Kaman will develop an even stronger bond and the Lakers will surely benefit from two skilled big men.
Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): After signings were made this offseason, I thought Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill should team up to lead the Lakers’ frontcourt. I initially thought Chris Kaman should be the substitute for Gasol in the rotation and in some instances, share time on the court together.
However, after watching the last two preseason games, Mike D’Antoni’s experiment of starting Gasol and Kaman in the frontcourt was a very pleasant surprise. Their experience and high basketball IQs came together, and they worked in sync with each other immediately.
Their chemistry was apparent, as they work off each other in the high and low post, while still looking for plays for their other teammates. Notably, they held down the defensive end while sharing the court for the most part, something I previously thought would be a nightmare. They still need to be more active on defense, but it was much better than I originally thought.
Playing Gasol and Kaman together resulted in having Jordan Hill rotate in as the center and Shawne Williams come in as a stretch four. This rotation showed energy, athleticism, and hustle.
As for the small forward position, I would start Wes Johnson as he will add defense to the starting unit and won’t disrupt the flow of the offense, even when Kobe Bryant returns. Nick Young’s offensive skills and mentality will be best served coming off the bench, when the Lakers will need it the most.
Check out what Kobe said about being back for opening night