The NBA season is now a quarter of the way through, which means teams like the Los Angeles Lakers can begin to evaluate what they have.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Lakers as they started off 2-10, looking like an absolute disaster that was again headed for a lost year on the outside looking in of the playoffs.
The Lakers were a brand new roster with a brand new coach though, so it was clear from the beginning that they would need some time to gel.
While it hasn’t been a complete 180 as the Lakers certainly still have their issues to sort out, they have been making some progress in recent weeks. L.A. is 6-2 in its last eight games to improve to 8-12, and most importantly, both Anthony Davis and LeBron James have looked like franchise cornerstones capable of accomplishing something great if they can stay healthy and the right pieces and decision-makers are around them.
James and Davis are unquestionably the most important factors for the Lakers and their potential turnaround. But what about the other guys? Now that the Lakers have built up a sample of 20 games, they are starting to see which lineups are working and which aren’t.
Should Beverley be removed from starting lineup?
The first question mark when looking at the data has been Patrick Beverley. The guard was the Lakers’ big offseason acquisition, hoping to bring L.A. defensive intensity, timely shooting as well as leadership in the locker room which are all things the team lacked last season.
So far though, Beverley’s tenure has gotten off to a rocky start as he is averaging just 4.2 points while shooting 26.8% from the field and 23.4% from 3.
When everyone is healthy, the Lakers’ starting lineup is Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr. along with James and Davis.
Your starting group is supposed to be your best lineup. This one, however, has a net rating of -17.4. They have only played together 29 minutes due to all of them missing time at one point or another, but the data has shown that this group isn’t working and is hindering the Lakers to start games.
The magic switch
If you make one simple switch though – putting in Dennis Schroder for Beverley – then that net rating increases all the way to +12.2.
And to take it a step further, what if you also sub out Brown for Austin Reaves, who has been playing the best basketball of his young career? The five-man lineup of Schroder, Walker, Reaves, James and Davis has an incredible net rating of +77.5 in a 10-minute sample.
In my opinion, that would be the Lakers’ best starting lineup to go with even without looking at the data. Schroder has chemistry with James and Davis that was built up in 2020-21. Walker has proven to be the Lakers’ third scorer and a quality defender, while Reaves fits on the court with just about anyone.
Just looking at three-man lineups with James and Davis, Beverley has a -8.2 net rating while Reaves is -1.6 and Schroder is +10.4
Sending Beverley to the bench, where there would be less pressure on him, would hopefully get him out of his shooting slump.
Westbrook making an impact
The other thing that stood out when looking at the data is that Russell Westbrook is making a legit impact for the Lakers since moving to his sixth-man role.
Of the Lakers’ 10 best lineups that have played 10 or more minutes together so far on the season, Westbrook is in eight of them.
I’m not exactly sure what changed for Westbrook since coming off the bench, but credit to Darvin Ham for getting him to buy into that role because it is working.
Westbrook is bringing energy to the Lakers, leading the second unit by playing with pace. He has taken almost all midrange shots out of his game, attacking the paint more often which sets up buckets for himself and his teammates.
Since moving to his reserve role, Westbrook is also shooting 35.7% from 3 so the confidence is certainly there.