Los Angeles Lakers

Taking a look at the Los Angeles Lakers experienced big man rotation

Another week, another veteran addition to the Los Angeles Lakers roster.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeAndre Jordan intends on signing with the Lakers after reaching a buyout with the Detroit Pistons, adding the 33-year-old to a once unthinkable centre rotation in the purple and gold.

With Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard already on the roster, the trio bring with them a combined 43 years experience in the league, 13 All-NBA nods and 12 All-Star appearances.

MORE: How does the Lakers average age stack up with recent champions

Given the league trend of teams utilising small ball lineups and sliding a traditional four to the five spot, the decision to carry three genuine centres on a roster is a curious one. As currently constructed Gasol projects as the likely starter, coming off a first season with the Lakers that saw him start in 42 of his 52 regular season appearances.

2020-21 season stats

MPG PPG RPG
Marc Gasol 19.1 5.0 4.1
Dwight Howard 17.3 7.0 8.3
DeAndre Jordan 21.9 7.5 7.5

From a traditional raw stats pespective, Howard was the most productive of the trio last season despite playing the fewest minutes per game. Fully accepting of his status in the league as a role player, Howard has thrived over the last two seasons with the Lakers and then Philadelphia 76ers. Still a high level worker on the glass and strong finisher around the basket, the 35-year-old is likely to see minutes off the bench once again.

A capable but not always willing shooter from the outiside, Gasol makes the most sense offensively as a floor spacer for the distribution of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Connecting on 41 percent of his 2.3 attempts from long range last season, perhaps 2022 will be the season he decides to let it fly?

Defensively, Gasol is still an incredibly high IQ man in the middle, with the Lakers holding opponents to 2.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor during the 2021 season.

As for Jordan, it's hard to see him taking minutes from a healthy Gasol or Howard. Playing a role for much of 2020-21 in Brooklyn, Jordan fell out of the rotation late in the season before not seeing a single minute during the playoffs. The least capable defensively of the three, he is also the least versatile of the trio on the other end of the floor.

Perhaps the most interesting component of pondering the need for the three big men is the fact that sliding Anthony Davis to the five is still the Lakers most lethal lineup.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Davis played just nine percent of his 1161 minutes at the five during the 2020-21 season. In those minutes, the Lakers posted an utterly dominant +17.0 net rating on the back of a 101.7 defensive rating.

When the Lakers go 'small'

ORTG DRTG NET
Davis at the four 114.1 109.0 +5.1
Davis at the five 118.7 101.7 +17.0

The lineup of Davis, James, Westbrook plus two shooters projects to be Frank Vogel's go to group down the stretch of big games and most certainly in the playoffs. During the regular season the benefits of having a big body to protect the paint makes a lot of sense and reduces the wear and tear on the often injured Davis, but when push comes to shove the limitations of Howard and Jordan are likely to come to the surface.

The Lakers are an incredibly deep squad, so carrying three big men is hardly robbing a position of need. Who knows, perhaps the Lakers will consider bringing back Pau Gasol to join the party?

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