This summer, the Los Angeles Lakers made a number of free agent signings, most notably including LeBron James.
James, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley were added to a young core consisting of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac and Moritz Wagner. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also re-signed with the team.
Therefore, it seems as though head coach Luke Walton has quite the difficult task on his hands regarding who will play, when they will play, and with whom they will play.
Will Walton opt to start a group of veterans or youngsters alongside James? Will any of the above players simply not receive rotational minutes at all? How will the development of the young core be impacted (if at all)?
There are many more questions than answers right now, but a major hint was revealed during a recent interview by Mike Trudell of NBA.com with Lakers assistant coach Jesse Mermuys.
Since James, Stephenson, Beasley, Hart, Kuzma, Ingram and Caldwell-Pope have all played multiple positions in their respective careers, Mermuys believes that LA will stray away from the one-through-five designations completely.
A positionless plan
“To be super general, the game has naturally moved towards positionless basketball. The guys have gotten bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled, and the game is just developing at such a high rate that the beauty of the vision and what we have to work with is we have a lot of positionless basketball players. Guys that can make a play, that can do multifaceted things. If you look across the roster, there are a lot of guys who can play multiple positions and to multiple things. That, in today’s NBA, is a weapon. There’s no doubt about that,” the Lakers assistant noted.
Therefore, a lineup consisting of Rondo, Hart, Kuzma, Ingram and James (for example) could be in play and would certainly cause other teams to switch up their strategies on both ends of the court. Since some Lakers have the size and wingspan to play essentially anywhere on the court, it will allow Walton to mix and match wherever and whenever he wants to.
Overall, Mermuys admitted that the coaching staff’s job will be difficult as a result.
“You have tons of weapons and there are only so many minutes for guys to play. But it creates more competition and an environment where guys have to bring it to earn their time and earn Luke’s trust. So much goes into that. Their work habits, their buy in, their shot selection, their defense, their effort, the little microcosms of the game. We’re going to take all that into account and then Luke has to make tough decisions about who he thinks is going to help us nightly to win that game, and that’s always changing. It’s always dynamic, but it creates a heck of an environment. You can’t really relax, you can’t really rest because there’s some depth there and a guy right behind you ready to go. It’ll be exciting to see how it all works out,” he said.
It will be fascinating to see how Walton and the coaching staff decides to split up the minutes early in the year before they will undoubtedly have to make some adjustments.